The Small Business Guide to Navigating CMMC Compliance Challenges

The Small Business Guide to Navigating
CMMC Compliance Challenges

Small business owners who are trying to complete government contracts need to navigate a maze of industry requirements. One of these requirements is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), a cybersecurity framework that has been in place since 2020.

This certification is crucial for the protection of government data and proves that contractors employ adequate cybersecurity defenses as part of their infrastructure. Given the potential complexities and resource constraints faced by small businesses, achieving CMMC compliance might appear quite challenging.

To simplify the process, we’ve prepared a list of challenges businesses often face with some practical tips to help navigate through them.

What is CMMC Compliance, and Why is it Important?

The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) is a security framework designed to protect sensitive federal information stored or processed by defense contractors. This initiative addresses cyber threats, ensuring contractors have the necessary defenses to safeguard critical information.

Adhering to CMMC compliance helps to prove a business’s commitment to cybersecurity readiness, potentially opening doors to better opportunities within DoD contracts that require a higher level of security.

Levels of CMMC Certification

The CMMC framework categorizes cybersecurity readiness into five distinct levels – ranging from basic cyber hygiene practices to more advanced and progressive cybersecurity initiatives.

Each level builds upon the previous one, adding more rigorous controls and processes. These are:

  • Level 1 – Focuses on safeguarding Federal Contract Information (FCI) through basic cyber hygiene practices.
  • Level 2: This is a transition step in progressing intermediate cybersecurity maturity to protect Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).
  • Level 3: Considered “good” cyber hygiene, this level involves implementing more advanced cyber hygiene practices to protect CUI and encompasses all the NIST SP 800-171 security requirements.
  • Levels 4 and 5: The expert levels prove your ability to protect CUI from Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and involve proactive and more advanced cybersecurity practices.

Common Challenges in Achieving CMMC Compliance


For smaller businesses with limited resources, obtaining CMMC compliance can be challenging. Some of the common obstacles include:

Resource Constraints

Small businesses embarking on cybersecurity initiatives like CMMC compliance often face hurdles beyond just the initial financial investment. The lack of specialized staff, the crunch for time, and a gap in essential expertise can quickly stand in the way of not just obtaining the certification but also ensuring it stays in place long-term.

This challenge is common in cybersecurity, where a detailed understanding and application of complex security measures are critical for ongoing compliance.

Complexity of Requirements

The CMMC framework is structured into five levels, each with its own self-assessment requirements. For small businesses, this level of complexity can be difficult to understand and implement without the necessary tools or expertise.

While some requirements may seem straightforward, others can be highly intricate and require a deeper understanding of cybersecurity concepts. Additionally, each level builds upon the previous one, making it essential for small businesses to carefully assess and implement security controls to meet their desired level while ensuring they do not overextend their resources.

Lack of Organizational Readiness

Achieving CMMC compliance requires more than just technical abilities – it requires a fundamental transformation in company culture and operations, particularly for those businesses that have not previously put much focus on cybersecurity.

To comply, companies need to adopt a uniform method for handling Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and defending against the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats. However, the challenge for many smaller businesses lies in applying these new procedures consistently across various departments or building locations, leading to inconsistencies that could expose compliance inadequacies and security vulnerabilities, risking their certification status.

Keeping Up with Changes

With the cybersecurity sector always in motion, discovering new threats all the time, the CMMC’s guidelines are equally fluid, designed to mirror government-approved strategies for combatting new security dangers.

This reality means that small businesses need to invest in continuous learning and create flexible strategies to ensure they are in lockstep with the latest compliance requirements. A proactive posture is critical for staying compliant, but this can often stretch the capacities of smaller businesses.

Practical Tips for Successfully Navigating CMMC Compliance

A team of individuals working together at a table with laptops, focusing on IT Services.

Get External Expertise

An efficient method to streamline your path toward CMMC compliance involves seeking the guidance of external experts specialized in this area such as LDD Consulting. Hiring consultants or considering the partial outsourcing of the compliance workflow can offer various benefits.

Third-party experts can dissect the intricate requirements of each CMMC level, identify deficiencies in existing cybersecurity protocols, and propose customized strategies for improvement. The external perspective they provide is particularly critical for demystifying intricate technical standards and helping you establish the essential safeguards.

Leverage Technology Solutions

A wide range of tools and technology exists to help streamline gaining and maintaining CMMC compliance. These solutions can automate key compliance activities, including vulnerability assessments, risk management, and ongoing system monitoring.

Employing new security technologies not only lightens the load for smaller companies but also improves efficiency, accuracy, and the overall effectiveness of your cybersecurity initiatives.

Training and Awareness

Critical to the success of CMMC compliance is ensuring that all employees are educated on their roles in maintaining cybersecurity best practices and how to handle sensitive data properly. Creating a thorough training program and executing consistent awareness campaigns can significantly support your compliance efforts.

By familiarizing your team with the newest cybersecurity threats, optimal practices, and the nuances of your company’s policies, you can mitigate the risk of human error and strengthen your organization’s compliance framework.

Take a Progressive Approach

Securing and maintaining CMMC compliance is a long-term process that requires ongoing improvements. It’s crucial for businesses to employ a progressive methodology, starting with the most critical controls and methodically advancing toward complete compliance.

This type of strategy enables organizations to properly allocate their efforts and resources, making the compliance process more feasible and sustainable.

Don't Make CMMC Compliance an Isolated Effort

Viewing CMMC compliance as a fundamental component of your organization’s strategic planning is important. This involves the adoption of technology solutions, establishing a culture of continuous learning, taking a gradual approach towards compliance, and ensuring that all your efforts are cohesively executed across all departments.

Executing this type of comprehensive strategy guarantees that your business is prepared to achieve or even exceed CMMC requirements, safeguarding your organization’s cybersecurity integrity over the long haul.