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Data Governance for SOX-Compliant ALM in Salesforce

Joe Marshall

Sr. Manager, Demand Generation

July 5, 2023

Why You Need a Robust Data Governance Framework in Salesforce ALM—and How to Operationalize One

A robust data governance framework is critical to remaining SOX compliant in Salesforce ALM. After all, to prevent any fraud or other form of tampering with financial data, SOX requires you to put safeguards in place to ensure your organization complies with regulatory requirements.

In this blog, we discuss the role of data governance in a SOX-compliant application lifecycle management process. We examine the structure of data governance, and we explain how to operationalize data governance for SOX compliance.

A finger hovering over a key on a keyboard that says “data governance.”

The Role of Data Governance in a SOX-Compliant ALM Process

Perhaps you’re thinking, “We don’t use financially-impacting data in the release process. Why do I need to know about data governance?” 

Well, let’s say a developer needs a specific type of financial data to test a change or new build. In this scenario, they don’t need to know anything about the data—just about how it responds to the change. Since it’s challenging to create a lot of test data that accurately represents production data, it’s best to work with data that you replicate from production. 

But to ensure the data isn’t misused, you need policies and procedures that govern its management. And that’s where data governance comes in.

What Is Data Governance for SOX-Compliant ALM?

Data governance for SOX-compliant ALM involves managing the availability, usability, integrity, and security of financially-impacting data.

Many companies use Salesforce to host sensitive data such as customer information, sales data, and financial transaction records. When it comes to SOX compliance, any data related to financial reporting becomes particularly critical. You need to ensure:

  • Accuracy: The data must accurately represent the real-world events and transactions it’s meant to reflect.
  • Consistency: The process for collecting data and representing data across all data fields should be uniform.
  • Security: Financial data, or data that impacts financial reporting, must be protected from unauthorized access and breaches.

For instance, if your financial transaction data in Salesforce is inaccurate or inconsistent, it could lead to incorrect financial reporting. That could be a violation of SOX regulations and result in hefty fines, legal penalties, and damage to your company’s reputation. 

Similarly, let’s say your data security isn’t up to date and you suffer a breach. A bad actor could make unauthorized changes to your financial data, which could also lead to noncompliance with SOX. 

Maintaining data accuracy, consistency, and security isn’t just about good data management practices. It’s directly linked to legal compliance, investor trust, your company’s reputation, and customer confidence. And that’s why data governance is critical to SOX-compliant ALM.

Elements of a SOX-Compliant Data Governance Structure

A data governance structure for a SOX-compliant ALM process in Salesforce should include the following elements:

Data Governance Committee

This cross-functional team includes representatives from various departments such as IT, finance, operations, and legal. It’s their responsibility to create and enforce the overall data governance strategy in Salesforce ALM.  This involves developing policies and procedures for data handling, ensuring regulatory compliance, and promoting best practices for data management. 

The data governance committee also establishes the roles of the data stewards, data quality team, and data security team.

Data Stewards

Data stewards are responsible for managing and maintaining data within Salesforce. They define the various data elements and ensure that data entered into Salesforce aligns with those definitions. They also monitor data for accuracy and completeness, resolve any data quality issues, and coordinate with the data quality and data security teams when needed. 

Stewards play a critical role in maintaining SOX compliance because they ensure your financial data is accurately represented in Salesforce.

Data Quality Team

The data quality team sets data quality standards within Salesforce and make sure everyone adheres to those standards. They conduct regular audits and checks on the data to identify inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or duplicates. If any issues arise, they coordinate with data stewards and the data governance committee to address them in a timely manner. 

In the context of SOX, the data quality team helps ensure that the financial data within Salesforce remains reliable and accurate. This in turn directly contributes to accurate financial reporting.

Data Security Team

The data security team maintains the security and privacy of the data in Salesforce. They’re responsible for implementing and maintaining security measures such as access controls, encryption, and firewalls. 

They also regularly monitor your orgs for any signs of data breaches or unauthorized access and take steps to address any issues. Their work is critical to preventing uncontrolled changes to financial data.

Together, these roles create a robust data governance structure that helps ensure SOX compliance within Salesforce ALM.

How to Operationalize Data Governance for SOX-Compliant ALM

Next, let’s take a closer look at the operational strategies you can use to bring this data governance structure to life.

Create Data Definitions

When you create clear, consistent data definitions, it provides a common language for all stakeholders. Data definitions should include specifics about data elements like account numbers, transaction amounts, dates, and more. By aligning these definitions with your organization’s accounting standards, everyone in the company understands what each data point represents. This minimizes the risk of misunderstandings or misuse.

Establish Data Standards

The purpose of establishing data standards is that it ensures data is stored in a uniform format across all fields in Salesforce. Consider factors such as consistent data types, field lengths, and values. These standards make it easier to audit data, as auditors know exactly what format to expect. 

Data standards also promote data integrity because they minimize the likelihood of errors resulting from inconsistent data entry or interpretation. And when you know that SOX requires rigorous auditing and places a premium on data integrity, it’s essential for compliance to establish data standards.

Perform Regular Data Quality Checks

Regular data quality checks are important to Salesforce ALM to make sure that your changes and new apps aren’t affecting financial data in an unexpected way. During a data quality audit, you should verify the accuracy of data entries, check for duplicates, and validate data against predefined data standards. 

When you perform data quality audits on a regular basis, you’re laying the foundation for maintaining data integrity. And that ensures you only use accurate, reliable financial information for reporting purposes.

Enforce Data Security Measures

It’s crucial to data governance for Salesforce ALM to implement stringent security measures. These can include:

  1. Password protection: Every user should have a strong password for the Salesforce platform. It’s advisable to set password strength requirements and enforce regular password changes.
  2. Encryption: You should protect sensitive data both at rest and in transit with robust encryption.
  3. Automation: Legacy Salesforce tools like Data Loader are insecure because you have to download data to your desktop when moving it between orgs. If you use automation—like Prodly—the data stays within the Salesforce platform, which greatly reduces your risk.
  4. Firewalls: You should use network security systems to monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules.

By implementing these measures, you can protect your financial data from unauthorized access—which is a fundamental requirement under SOX.

Implement Data Access Policies

Establish data access policies to determine who can access what data in Salesforce, as well as what they can do with that data. You should ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive financial data. To do this, implement role-based access control, where you give users access to only the data they need to perform their job duties.

Data access policies are key to protecting financial data from unauthorized access and potential data tampering. They help safeguard the integrity of your financial data, which contributes to SOX compliance

Data Governance for SOX-Compliant ALM in Salesforce

The intersection of data governance and SOX compliance in the Salesforce ALM process isn’t merely a procedural stipulation that keeps you on the right side of the law. It’s a reflection of your dedication to integrity, accountability, and transparency. Strong data governance helps preserve the accuracy, consistency, and security of financially significant data. And because investors and customers recognize this dedication, it helps amplify investor trust, bolster your company’s reputation, and enhance customer confidence.


How do I ensure data consistency across different departments in our company?

The most effective way to achieve this is by establishing uniform data definitions and standards across the organization. Additionally, regular data quality checks and audits can help identify inconsistencies so you can address them in a timely manner. On top of that, establishing a cross-functional data governance committee can further promote data consistency by fostering collaboration across various departments.

Is there a specific role for data governance in managing financial data in Salesforce, given its SaaS nature?

Yes, the data stored within Salesforce is subject to the same regulatory and security requirements as any other kind of data. These include SOX compliance, so implementing data governance within Salesforce is critical to maintain the integrity and security of the data.

Can automation help in maintaining SOX compliance in Salesforce ALM?

Absolutely. Automation can greatly enhance data security and integrity. For instance, Prodly provides desktop-free data migration in Salesforce, which reduces the risk of unauthorized access or tampering. It also offers data masking, data obfuscation, and granular data redaction to protect data. Plus, Compliance Center allows you to monitor your orgs 24/7 for unauthorized changes so you can immediately address any issues.

Don’t forget: Always implement automation alongside a robust data governance framework to fully support SOX-compliant ALM in Salesforce.