What Mid-Sized Enterprises Can Learn from an IT Vendor Audit

April 20th, 2021 Hannah Tichansky Reading Time: 3 minutes
Mid-Size Enterprises have unique challenges when it comes to navigating IT vendor audits.

No one loves audits. They take up valuable time and often force organizations to confront frustrating truths about needed improvements. Preparing for an audit can be stressful, and failing an IT vendor audit can cause even more headaches. These difficulties aside, the preparation or results (even if they are negative) help prioritize areas to improve upon and provide a push to make these organizational changes quickly.

Despite the challenges they pose, IT vendor audits provide a framework of how to protect your organization’s data and IT infrastructure. Some of the challenges that mid-sized enterprises have to contend with include:

  • 63% of data breaches can be traced back to the actions of a third party
  • 66% of MSEs have experienced at least one cyber security breach or attack in the last 12 months
  • Despite this, only 13% of businesses require that their third parties adhere to any cyber security standards

Why did I fail my IT Vendor Audit?

As a mid-sized enterprise (MSE) your business probably has fewer resources devoted to TPRM programs than larger companies, making it more difficult to manage all activities and risks within third-party lifecycles.

If your organization recently failed an IT vendor audit requiring swift remediation this often triggers a reanalysis of current TPRM program capabilities and performance. Some reasons an MSE may have failed an IT vendor audit include:

  • Limited knowledge of your IT vendor infrastructure
  • Manual processes that are not easy to use or don’t fulfill compliance requirements
  • Manual processes that no longer handle the amount of vendors you use
  • Failing to catch red flags within your third and fourth-party performance

All of these factors can be traced back to the TPRM program (or lack of an effective program) in place at an organization. And this makes sense. Mid-sized companies often do not have the personnel or financial resources devoted to TPRM that larger enterprises do. In fact, recent studies have shown that:

  • 30% of MSEs didn’t have a team dedicated to TPRM at all
  • 56% only had 1-5 team members (and many only have 1)
  • 66% of MSEs had TPRM budgets of less than $50,000

How can I prepare for an IT vendor audit without being completely overwhelmed?

Due to increased regulatory attention being paid to MSEs’ IT vendors, choosing the right TPRM solution is necessary but can be overwhelming. While you don’t want to choose a TPRM program that is too sophisticated for your current needs, you also need a program that will grow with you and automate arduous manual processes.

When choosing the right TPRM automation program for you, consider the following goals:

Centralization: Make sure the TPRM program can centralize all of your processes, spreadsheets, and other documents into a single system of record. With all vendors housed in one place, you don’t need to bounce around between programs and you can gain a holistic understanding of your vendor risks.

Visibility: Don’t make things harder for yourself by having to hunt to find the information you need. Make sure the program displays data and processes so you can spend more time working efficiently. Role-based views and dashboards should provide seamless, transparent reporting for all stakeholders.

Automation: If you’re trying to move away from manual processes, make sure the TPRM program automates as much as possible. This allows you to spend less time wading through thousands of data points and more time prioritizing specific action items.

What do I look for in a good TPRM Program?

Because MSEs have fewer resources than larger companies, they often need to rely more heavily on the expertise of their TPRM solution provider. Yet, as your organization continues to grow (and possibly expand overseas) you also need technology that evolves as your team gains more expertise and your program matures. The right TPRM automation solution adapts with you so that you can continue to manage your IT vendors with ease, and stay prepared for any external or internal vendor audits.

When shopping around for TPRM program vendors, keep an eye out for these five critical components that will help elevate your program:

Initial request/intake automation capabilities: Consider how automation will be used to streamline the onboarding process and add basic firmographic data.

Inherent risk assessments: Ensure that pre-configured risk assessments are included for a wide variety of risk domains, enabling you to flag third parties that require additional due diligence.

Inherent risk reviews: Find out if automated workflow processes facilitate review by a risk expert, and if the system creates an accessible audit trail of all activities.

Enhanced due diligence: Consider how the TPRM program handles inherent risk assessments- do you have the option to conduct enhanced due diligence if a red flag is raised?

Lifecycle management: Ensure that the system includes workflow processing for editing, offboarding, and terminating third parties to ensure that all downstream processes are completed.

How do I take my first steps towards TPRM automation?

Keeping these areas of key functionality in mind should be helpful when it comes time to browse for automation tool vendors. Remember to find programs that will streamline and evolve manual processes, while still designed for an MSE’s size and resources.

If you are looking to evolve your TPRM program without overwhelming your capabilities, Aravo is here to help. Our solutions are tailored to fit your program’s maturity with the ability to grow and adapt as your organization and team evolve.

Hannah Tichansky

Hannah Tichansky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Aravo Solutions, the market’s smartest third-party risk and resilience solutions, powered by intelligent automation. At Aravo, she manages all content and thought leadership produced for products and campaigns, and contributes as an author for articles and blog posts.

Hannah holds over 12 years of writing and marketing experience, with 6 years of specialization in the risk management, supply chain, and ESG industries. Hannah holds an MA from Monmouth University and a Certificate in Product Marketing from Cornell University.

Hannah Tichansky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Aravo Solutions, the market’s smartest third-party risk and resilience solutions, powered by intelligent automation. At Aravo, she manages all content and thought leadership produced for products and campaigns, and contributes as an author for articles and blog posts.

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