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How You Should Be Approaching Integrated Risk Management

Integrated Risk Management, also known as IRM, is an important element of any organization’s overall cybersecurity infrastructure. Embracing an integrated risk management approach fundamentally evolves an organization’s security posture, transforming it from a reactive state centered on compliance to a proactive culture built on effectively managing cybersecurity risks.

approaching integrated risk management

Businesses continue to adopt new technologies at pace: from foundational business systems like Office 365 to new technologies in payments, communications, and cybersecurity. Effectively protecting the attack surface of this growing body of software presents significant challenges for under-resourced Information Technology (IT) teams; challenges which are only becoming more pronounced as IT environments grow ever more complex.  

Adopting integrated risk management practices enables organizations to better manage their exposure across every different department. The strategy holistically evaluates risks present across the organization’s entire technology stack and develops strategies to manage these risks and safeguard the organization’s data.

But what exactly is integrated risk management, and how can you adopt it in your organization? Today, we’re answering those questions.

What is Integrated Risk Management?

Integrated risk management is a set of proactive procedures and activities that use risk management technologies to evaluate risk in the wider context of an organization’s business strategy. The practice analyzes exposure to risk across the entire organization and features business leaders and security leaders working together.

The term was first defined by Gartner in 2017 in response to the increasing levels of complexity that exist in organizations’ digital infrastructures. Since then, integrated risk management technologies and consulting have exploded in popularity: analysts forecast the industry could be valued at nearly $30 billion by 2027.  

There are many benefits to adopting an integrated approach to risk management. These include:

  • Discovering new business opportunities: as opposed to only mitigating the downsides of security incidents, IRM enables business and IT leaders to work together in parallel to strengthen the organization’s entire IT infrastructure. This often results in infrastructure improvements across the organization.
  • More sophisticated risk identification and mitigation: an integrated approach to risk management emphasizes proactively identifying and addressing risks before they develop into a serious security threat. Leveraging cyber threat intelligence helps organizations better insulate themselves from attacks and the ensuing business disruption.
  • Evolve overall cybersecurity posture: when IRM is successfully implemented, the way the organization approaches and manages risk fundamentally shifts. Executives across the organization will begin to view investing in cybersecurity as a competitive strength. Often, they’ll embrace security awareness training and other initiatives that strengthen the organization’s overall posture.
  • Minimizes organizational exposure: an organization that embraces IRM successfully has a well-defined framework in place to identify, diagnose, and respond to adverse cybersecurity events. This minimizes the potential financial impact of a cyber attack.

 

There are no real drawbacks to integrated risk management and the benefits of this approach make this an investment worth making. Next, let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in setting up an integrated risk management program in your organization.

The 6 Elements of Integrated Risk Management

If you’re actively planning to adopt an integrated risk management strategy in your organization, there are six key elements to consider:

  1. Strategy
  2. Assessment
  3. Response Plan
  4. Communication
  5. Monitoring
  6. Software

Let’s examine each element in more detail.

1. Strategy

All effective initiatives start with a comprehensive strategy and integrated risk management is no different. An IRM strategy should marry cybersecurity objectives with those of the organization as a whole. Securing alignment between business leaders and cybersecurity leaders is crucial to building a risk-aware culture that drives behavioral changes across the entire organization.

A foundational element of the strategy is a central framework that outlines the roles of different leaders in implementing integrated risk management practices. This framework should assign governance responsibilities and should also allocate ownership over different areas of the process to individual leaders.

2. Assessment

To embrace integrated risk management, organizations must develop the capacity to understand where risks currently exist. As a first step, conduct a vulnerability assessment to identify elements of weakness within your organization.

Not sure where to start? Tech Heads offers a comprehensive vulnerability assessment that delivers prioritized recommendations tailored to your business. Once you’ve identified vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure you can come up with a mitigation strategy.

3. Response Plan

A response plan provides a roadmap for organizations to address risks: both those identified during the assessment stage and future risks that are yet to present themselves. A comprehensive response plan gives organizations the frameworks and tools they need to systematically address different risks and recover from potential attacks.

Response plans contain six key stages: preparation, detection, containment, eradication, recovery, and follow-up. More information on each stage can be found in this guide: 6 Critical Phases of a Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan.

It’s important to continually update cybersecurity response plans. As organizations identify new risks in their IT infrastructure and discover new threat intelligence they should update their response plans accordingly.

4. Communication

Business and IT leaders must work closely together to ensure a successful approach to integrated risk management. That requires comprehensive communication and reporting frameworks that enable leaders to stay aligned.

Centralizing all risk management insights and analysis into one platform makes it much easier to stay aligned and various software tools support this. With the right software, there’s no need for cybersecurity professionals to collate data from multiple sources into one report manually. Automating reporting frees cybersecurity teams up to spend more time on higher-value tasks.

Promoting open communication and transparent reporting standards is vital to the success of integrated risk management. Establish clear metrics to measure the success of the integrated risk management initiative and ensure individual leaders are accountable for them.

5. Monitoring

Risk management is not a one-off activity: it’s an ongoing process that constantly evolves in response to emerging threats and changing business strategies. To evaluate how the risk profile of the organization is changing, periodically review the outcomes of various integrated risk management initiatives. Pinpoint areas of strength and identify points of weakness to improve.

By proactively monitoring the effectiveness of different integrated risk management strategies, it’s possible to identify how successful each element of your approach is. With this information, allocating resources is a much more straightforward process. This enables organizations to prioritize investments in initiatives that deliver tangible improvements.

6. Software

Adopting an integrated risk management software is integral to the success of transitioning to an integrated risk management approach. These software solutions are different from the Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) systems that many organizations already use. It’s important to select the appropriate IRM software for your organization’s needs.

GRC software platforms primarily focus on ensuring compliance through a checklist-style approach. The tools are often modular and don’t allow cybersecurity leaders to obtain a comprehensive overview of their organization’s risk profile on a single pane of glass. Module-based GRC solutions are not well-suited to an organization embracing risk management as they create silos and lack a unified central view of an organization's IT infrastructure.

IRM solutions represent a much better option for business and security leaders looking to proactively manage risk. These platforms offer a single view of risk across the organization and come equipped with advanced reporting features. They have the capacity to deliver high-level insights to business leaders while giving security teams the granular detail they need to proactively manage risk.

As more organizations transition towards integrated risk management, many existing GRC tools are rebranding themselves as IRM solutions. As you select a tool, proceed with caution, and make sure you understand exactly what different tools offer.

It can be helpful to partner with experienced cybersecurity professionals that have a proven track record of helping organizations adopt integrated risk management software. These experts, including the team at TechHeads, can help you select and deploy the best IRM solution for your business.

Start Evolving your Approach to Integrated Risk Management Now

It’s becoming increasingly important for organizations to prioritize the adoption of an integrated approach to risk management. But the evolution from a security culture that’s focused on compliance to one that focuses on risk management is not an overnight change. Instead, it’s important to approach the transition iteratively.

Take the time to secure alignment from key stakeholders across the organization and build a comprehensive strategic plan that accurately assesses your organization’s current risk profile. Adopting an IRM platform is not a strategy in itself; it must be paired with a thoughtful, deliberate approach to implementing integrated risk management processes across the organization.

Considering adopting an integrated approach to risk management in your organization? The team at Tech Heads is here to help. Our experienced team of cybersecurity experts has extensive experience deploying integrated risk management processes across small and medium-sized businesses.

To learn more about the support available to your organization, contact us today. 

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