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Before yesterdayResearch - Companies

Automate, automate, automate: Three Ways to Increase the Value from Third Party Risk Management Efforts

26 October 2021 at 15:28

Third Party Risk Management (β€œTPRM”) efforts are often considered labour-intensive, with numerous tedious, manual steps. Often, an equal amount of effort is put into managing the process as is to focusing on risks. In order to avoid this, we’d like to share three ways in which we’ve been boosting our own TPRM efficiency – through automation of three crucial phases in the third party risk assessment process:

(1) during initiation (the business risk/criticality assessment),

(2) while performing your third party (due diligence) assessments and

(3) during the monitoring phase following the assessment.

This article elaborates further on the automation of the above.

  1. Automate the third-party criticality assessment

When you are applying a risk-based approach to your TPRM efforts, third party assessments are initiated with a criticality or business risk assessment using information from the business owner working with the third party. Most of our customers will document the criticality assessment in an Excel file with a lot of back-and-forth communication.

When reviewing the intake form, we realised that the intake could be distilled to a few multiple-choice questions, such as the highest category of data the third-party can access, the level of system access and so on. We created the possibility for the customer to conduct a short, simplified assessment through Microsoft Forms. This is easily available through one single link and avoids clutter (caused by different versions of Excel files, for example). In addition, through Microsoft Flow, the output from that Form is automatically grabbed and imported in a repository. Finally, we made sure an MS Planner Task is created for each new assessment which triggers the involvement of the security second line function.

Figure 1: Gathering the MS Forms output, assigning an assessment ID and storing the gathered criticality assessment input data.
Figure 2: Summarising the outcome in an email to security team (for validation) and creation of a task for follow-up through MS Planner.

This approach results in significant value increase because it can:

  • Give the business owner a more user-friendly GUI rather than an Excel sheet, which they are expected to complete.
  • Enable owners to initiate a third-party security assessment at any given time, without the initiation by second line.
  • Empower the second line to focus on understanding and challenging the provided input.
  • Improve administration aspects around the execution of the third-party security risk assessments are completed within a short time frame.

Do you want to take it to the next level? Integrate an automated approval through Power Automate for the security team.

The above case requires a low effort customisation to fully tailor this to your organisation and guarantees time efficiencies and better flexibility.

  1. Automate the execution of the assessments by leveraging tooling

You might still be wondering: how do we finally get rid of those Excel files to exchange with our third parties?Β  You could address this by using tooling throughout the assessment process. By leveraging these tools (such as Ceeyu, OneTrust Vendorpedia, Security Scorecard Atlas, Qualys SAQ, Prevalent and more) not only the tedious tasks of the criticality assessment, but also those of the consequential third party due diligence assessment, can be automated. Examples of tasks we have automated with such tooling include:

  • The exchange of the due diligence questionnaires.
  • The uploading and collecting of supporting evidence.
  • The tracking of the overall progress of the assessment (including the history of the review), and
  • Reporting of the assessment outcome and scoring (including comparison of vendors).

Again, significant value increase is the result and you can:

  • Reduce time-to-market: the administrative overhead per assessment, leading to a reduced average lead time of the assessment.
  • Identify bottlenecks: clearly pinpoint the bottleneck if the assessment does get stuck somewhere with a centralized overview of the actual status of the assessment.
  • Free up valuable time: allow the security team reviewing the provided input to focus their time on what really matters: reviewing the output.
  • Leverage reporting possibilities: minimise the effort in creating custom reports for management reporting using the cutting edge built-in reporting features.

Of course, this requires having the right tools at your disposition – however, implemented at scale, the efficiency and quality returns of the tools nearly always surpass the cost of such tooling. At NVISO for example, we’ve been able to decrease our nominal assessment cost by about 20% and our tool provides a portal to our customers that brings transparency and visibility on the handling of incoming TPRM requests.

  1. Automate the monitoring and follow-up on agreed actions by leveraging tooling

In order to maximise automation, you should also consider it for your monitoring actions. Very often assessments remain a point-in-time assessment (β€œsnapshot”) which only paints a partial picture on how seriously your third parties take security. It is of equal importance to monitor their efforts to improve their security posture over time – i.e. the timely and effective implementation of your recommendations, and the evolution of their overall security posture. Automation can also play a major role in this process.

Here also, you would create value increase because you can:

  • Automate action plan monitoring: send automated reminders to the third parties in line with set due dates for identified follow-up actions.
  • Automate escalation: escalate to the business owner in case of overdue actions, potentially with different business rules depending on the business criticality of the supplier.
  • Free up valuable time: reducing manual interventions of your second line team helps focusing on where it really matters: is the identified action effectively addressed? Is the remediation effective in reducing the risk? We typically adopt a risk-driven, sample-based approach in verifying this.
  • Stay up to date: trigger automated reinitiation of assessments when they are due for a third party.

To facilitate this, you will again require the right tools at your disposition. A dedicated TPRM tool is a plus, although it’s perfectly feasible to also realise this through Microsoft 365 for example. This monitoring process is also something we offer as an option in our TPRM as a service solution.

Conclusion

To summarise: all of the above automation efforts (even through leveraging tools you might already have at hand) can significantly increase the value you get from your efforts in the Third Party Risk Management (TPRM) process. Customers, as well as third parties, see the benefits of these automation initiatives in the process: it reduces their involvement, it’s easier to track the various assessments and eventually it allows them to focus on the outcome of their TPRM efforts.

If you are looking at ways to boost your TPRM efforts and are seeking assistance in implementing this within your organisation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me through [email protected].

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