Small and mid-sized businesses seeking to secure contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD) must adhere to growing cybersecurity standards including the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). CMMC certifies that businesses can protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) that they create or receive as part of their business with the DoD.
Unfortunately for many, navigating the complex pathway to CMMC certification can be a daunting and expensive task. This is where the expertise of a CMMC consultant can come into play and save you some stress, and in some cases even money.
However, with so many CMMC consultants to choose from, how do you identify the one that’s right for your business needs? This article will guide you through the process of finding the best CMMC consultant for your business.
What is a CMMC Consultant?
A CMMC Consultant is an individual or firm that guides businesses through the rigorous process of achieving CMMC certification. They are well-acquainted with the ins and outs of the CMMC framework to be able to support businesses through initial risk assessments, planning, and implementation to ensure your business checks all the boxes required for certification.
Understanding the World of Consultants
There are a few certifications consultants can achieve to support the CMMC mission and ultimately your business. These certifications can be either for CMMC training, implementation, or assessment. We’re focusing on implementation in this post, which has two distinct certifications.
Registered Practitioner (RP)
A Registered Practitioner (RP) is an individual who has passed the Cyber-AB’s (CMMC Accreditation Body) training course and adheres to a professional code of conduct. There are two levels of certification, basic certification for RPs and advanced certification for Registered Practitioner Advanced (RPA). They are listed in the Cyber-AB Marketplace and are authorized to advise and guide organizations seeking CMMC certification. RPs have a good understanding of the CMMC model but are not certified to conduct formal assessments for certification. They usually work under a Registered Provider Organization (RPO) or a Certified Third-Party Assessment Organization (C3PAO).
Registered Provider Organization (RPO)
An RPO is an organization registered with the Cyber-AB. These organizations have agreed to the Cyber-AB’s code of conduct and employ at least one RP. RPOs are authorized to provide consulting services to organizations preparing for CMMC certification. Much like RPs, they cannot conduct official assessments for certification but can help organizations get prepared for them and support them throughout the assessment process. Assessments are only provided by C3PAOs. Note that the firm you are hiring for implementation should not be the same firm that you use for an assessment.
Why You Need a CMMC Consultant?
I’m sure by now it’s become clear that if you’re a DoD contractor, or aspiring to be one, achieving CMMC certification is non-negotiable. So how do you do this effectively and affordably for your business? A CMMC consultant/RPO! The right CMMC consultant can be your guide, mentor, and partner in navigating the complexities of CMMC and the cybersecurity landscape. Consultants can offer a wide range of services, tailored to suit your business needs to establish the robust security posture your organization needs. Let’s look at the type of services a consultant can provide:
CMMC Assessment and Gap Analysis
This is typically the first step where the consultant will assess your current cybersecurity practices against the CMMC requirements. They will identify areas where your business falls short (gaps) and provide detailed recommendations on how to address these issues.
Cybersecurity Strategy Development
Based on the gap analysis, the consultant will help develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. This includes creating policies and procedures that align with CMMC standards and your business objectives.
Documentation and Reporting
Proper documentation is crucial for CMMC certification. A consultant can assist in developing and maintaining necessary documentation, including policies, procedures, and evidence of compliance.
A CMMC Consultant doesn’t stop at strategizing; they support you in implementing these strategies as well. They can assist in the rollout of new security measures, ensuring that they are correctly integrated into your business operations.
Staff Training and Awareness
One of the key aspects of maintaining a strong security posture is having a well-trained workforce. A CMMC Consultant can develop and deliver training programs to increase cybersecurity awareness among your employees and ensure they understand their role in maintaining security.
Continuous Monitoring and Compliance
Achieving CMMC certification is not a one-time process. It requires continuous monitoring and updating of your cybersecurity practices. A CMMC Consultant can provide ongoing support to ensure that your business remains compliant and is prepared for any subsequent audits.
Incident Response Planning
In the unfortunate event of a cybersecurity breach, having an effective incident response plan can mitigate the damage. A CMMC Consultant can assist in developing a detailed response plan, including roles, responsibilities, communication strategies, and recovery procedures.
Liaison with C3PAO
CMMC Consultants can liaise with Certified Third-Party Assessment Organizations (C3PAOs), assisting you in managing the audit process effectively and efficiently.
How to Find the Right CMMC Consultant?
We’ve covered how to classify CMMC consultants and what they can do to support your CMMC success; now it’s time to figure out which one is right for you. There are a few factors you’ll want to consider.
Define your Requirements: Your first step is to understand what you expect from your CMMC Consultant. Do you need assistance solely for the certification, or are you looking for a strategic partnership for long-term cybersecurity enhancement? Are you interested in additional services like staff training and incident response? Defining your requirements upfront can streamline the selection process.
Credentials and Experience: Check the prospective consultant’s qualifications and experience. They should have both cybersecurity experience as well as experience with the different compliance models like FAR 52.204-21 and NIST 800-171, which CMMC is based on. Your consultant should also hold valid RP/RPA/RPO certifications and should possess a successful track record in guiding businesses through the CMMC implementation process. Having experience with businesses like yours is a definite plus as each industry has its unique cybersecurity challenges.
Customer Testimonials and References: It’s crucial to consider other customers’ experiences with the consultant. Look for testimonials and reviews, and don’t hesitate to ask for references. Talking with past clients can provide first-hand insight into the consultant’s work style, professionalism, and results.
Pricing Structure: The cost of CMMC consulting services varies based on the complexity of your requirements and the consultant’s expertise. Understand the pricing model—whether it’s a flat fee, hourly rate, or based on milestones. While cost is a critical factor, it’s important to remember that the most inexpensive option might not offer the best value. You’ll want to ensure that your business is covered with what it needs, especially ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and adjustments for reassessing every three years that you may require.
Introductory Consultation: Use the initial consultation, often free, to assess the consultant’s suitability for your business. Ask specific questions about their approach, gauge their understanding of your business, and assess their communication skills.
Local vs. Remote: Lastly, decide whether you need a consultant who can provide on-site services or if you are comfortable with remote services. Both options have their merits and demerits, and the choice should be based on your business’s specific needs.
How Ardalyst Can Help?
Finding the right CMMC Consultant is paramount for a smooth journey toward CMMC compliance. Remember, this is a strategic investment that can help safeguard your business from cyber threats, while also giving you a competitive advantage in the DoD marketplace. Ardalyst is a certified RPO specializing in helping small and mid-sized businesses get compliant effectively and affordably. Check out a few of our free services that you can get started with today!
- In addition to providing CMMC consulting services, Ardalyst has developed Tesseract, a unique approach to achieving and maintaining certification. Tesseract is a comprehensive and affordable cybersecurity program that can be tailored to your business needs and includes guided support from a dedicated CMMC consultant. Take advantage of our FREE Tesseract Program Trial including a free risk assessment that meets the requirements for CMMC RA.L2-3.11.1, the development and preview of your customized System Security Plan (SSP) and Plan of Action and Milestones (POAM), and a detailed technical design of your program enclave.
- If you are more of a DIYer, please feel free to use our NIST SP 800-171 Self-Assessment tool to instantly receive and download your informational score.
- Get your free consultation! The experts at Ardalyst can help you identify your goals, next steps, and even develop an affordable, comprehensive cybersecurity program to get CMMC compliant.