Risk assessments are a vital element in any business’s survival, but there are many ways they can go wrong. As you conduct information security risk assessments and other types of risk assessments, you’ll need to prioritize not only the thoroughness and total effectiveness of the evaluation but also its efficiency and costs.
So what steps can you take to improve your company’s risk evaluation?
Work With a Professional Third-Party
First, hire a professional third party. Working with an information security expert can bring you a number of benefits:
Experience and expertise. You’ll be working with people who have years, or even decades of experience in this specific field. These experts have likely helped dozens to hundreds of businesses evaluate risk and respond to threats, so they know what they’re talking about.
More resources. Third-party organizations may also be able to utilize more resources than you can summon on your own. For example, they may be able to leverage more manpower, provide more tech resources, or connect you with other firms that can fulfill your needs.
Neutral, unbiased views. Teams within organizations often suffer from groupthink – the tendency for everyone within a group of people to think and see things the same way. If all the members of your team are in alignment, they may suffer from the same biases, assumptions, and viewpoints – blinding them to the realities of your company’s biggest risks. Working with a third party can connect you to a more neutral, unbiased view.
Accountability. Working with another organization is also a way to hold another party accountable for the risk evaluation. They’re incentivized to uncover and address every possible risk, with their own reputation on the line, so they’re inclined to be much more thorough in their execution.
It’s true that hiring a third party is often more expensive than tapping the power of your own internal staff, but the benefits are often worth the extra money.
Involve More People
Even if you’re hiring a third-party organization to handle your risk evaluation, it’s important to involve many different people within your organization to monitor and assist with the process. This way, you’ll have a stronger, more diverse team to look at the various problems you face from multiple different angles – and you’ll have an easier time communicating core concepts across multiple different departments.
Prioritize Risks Carefully
One of the most important areas of development in any risk evaluation is to analyze and prioritize risks. When doing this, make sure you consider every possible variable, including:
Potential for occurrence. How likely is it that your business will face this threat in the future? How much of a target is your business? How many security measures do you have in place to prevent this problem from occurring?
Potential damage. How much damage would your business suffer if this threat occurred? There’s a big difference between a highly likely $10,000 problem and a highly unlikely $10,000,000 problem – and not every company would weigh the risks of these scenarios the same way.
Potential visibility and other repercussions. If your business faces this specific threat, how would it affect your reputation? Would the business be forced to change in some way? Would it face legal risks?
Potential remediation. You’ll also want to think about the right way to respond to an attack (or other threat unfolding in real time). If a threat can be easily identified and squashed before it causes any real damage, it can be treated as a lower priority than a threat that’s almost impossible to see coming.
Focus on Actionable Takeaways
Next, make sure you’re focused on actionable takeaways. It’s interesting and thought-provoking to see a list of the risks and threats faced by your business – but that list isn’t going to serve much of a purpose by itself. Instead, you’ll need to use that list to educate and train your staff members, invest in new technologies, revisit and change your old procedures, and roll out new procedures.
Improve Over Time
Finally, understand that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” approach to risk evaluation. The risks faced by businesses are changing all the time – and so is the landscape of risk assessment. On top of that, most businesses make mistakes and overlook key variables in their earliest forms of risk assessment. Over time, you should learn new things, challenge your old ways of doing things, and adjust your approach to gradually improve over time.
Risk assessments don’t have to be gargantuan, clumsy, and expensive endeavors. Instead, they can be tight, focused, efficient, and a reasonable integration into your business. As long as you’re actively including risk evaluations in your business and working to improve them over time, you’ll be ahead of most of your competitors.
I’m a single mother of 2 living in Utah writing about startups, business, marketing, entrepreneurship, and health. I also write for Inc, Score, Manta, and Newsblaze