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Transforming Governance, Risk and Compliance to Integrated Risk Management


Remote work has become the new normal globally. COVID-19 has presented a lot of challenges, but enterprises were shown that a remote workplace was not only feasible but sustainable long term. This dramatic shift comes with its dangers, though. Suddenly having to support remote workers in previously unseen quantities came with the increased risk of data loss and data breaches enterprise-wide. 

Gartner predicts that through 2022, 75% of midsize enterprises will utilize a hybrid model of employees working from a defined corporate office and working remotely. And 75% of companies intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently post-COVID-19. Nearly a quarter of CFOs surveyed have said that they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.

Because of the sudden transition to remote work, some solutions were adopted as “good enough” instead of more thorough, complicated options that take an integrated risk management (IRM) approach. IRM is more effective at managing risk long-term and effectively securing sensitive information, but those with legacy systems are sometimes hesitant to make such a big change. However, even augmenting current systems with some IRM capabilities can make an enormous difference. 

Organizations pushed into digital transformation due to COVID-19 need a better grasp of strategic, operational, and technology risks to maintain business continuity. IRM is the best solution to support the new shift to remote work. So what does an excellent integrated risk management approach for an organization look like?

The ramifications of remote work for cybersecurity

While remote work may mean “work from home” for most, it also means employees can work anywhere, from coffee shops to Airbnb’s to airports, leaving critical data vulnerable. The quick shift to a remote work model has left some organizations with reduced visibility into how data is being used and stored, increasing the risk of data being lost.

With a shift to the cloud and worldwide moves into digital spaces, digital risk directly impacts a business and its ability to achieve goals. This is why IRM becomes so critical. It addresses risk in a new, modern way that isn’t possible with legacy IT GRC systems. Even if an enterprise doesn’t want to shed its siloed and modular GRC solution completely, IRM can augment already existing systems.

Gartner defines IRM as “practices and processes supported by a risk-aware culture and enabling technologies that improve decision making and performance through an integrated view of how well an organization manages its unique set of risks.” A key distinction in Gartner’s definition of IRM is the integration with enterprise risk management (ERM) relating to strategic risks impacting operational and IT risk management objectives. IRM excludes the broader management of risks beyond operational technology and IT.

A change in the way organizations manage cybersecurity, and cyber risk is a must in a post-pandemic world. In the past, governance, risk, and compliance acted as the foundation for cybersecurity teams. Yet, as the acronym suggests, GRC risk management leaves organizations siloed and fragmented.

This is why IRM becomes critical in a modern approach to risk-based management and any digital transformation initiative. In order for it to be successful, companies must take a top-down approach to risk management and compliance and create a risk-aware culture. By offering solutions that can integrate strategically with systems in place and assist in the path to shedding legacy IT GRC systems that are siloed and modular.

Where IRM comes from and why it matters in a modern world

IRM is a fairly recent development in cybersecurity. Its predecessor, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), was created in the late ’80s to manage digital risk, financial risk, operational risk, and more. However, as the world has been turning toward digital solutions, security leaders managing compliance and risk across digital spaces were consistently playing catch up with their dated systems. GRC is no longer enough to securely manage the modern risk profiles, and threats organizations are facing.  

When the success of a business is challenged by unknown threats and increasing levels of risk, CISO’s need to start looking at solutions that can evolve with them. IRM allows companies to manage risk and gain insight into it. By providing continuous monitoring, platforms like CyberStrong also offer a means to reduce overall spending by allowing the automation of assessments, freeing up resources by requiring less human intervention.

There’s also an opportunity to streamline organizational processes by simplifying risk management and compliance and not making employees pore through spreadsheets day after day. Instead, the risk, governance, and compliance management is in one, integrated risk management program. Security leaders must champion solutions that increase risk insight and security analysis, all while making sure they’re not introducing more operational complexity.

Both the culture and the tools that risk and compliance teams employ shift with IRM to increase visibility and standardize across the organization. Aligning cyber strategy with business outcomes is the first step - as we’ve seen, representing risk metrics in similar forms as other business risks helps put cyber risk in a more applicable context. IRM solutions also give CISO’s the ability to demonstrate more transparent insight into returns on security investment (RoSI) by having solutions that talk to one another.

Platforms like Cyberstrong provide unparalleled visibility into risk assessment, automates IT compliance, and creates resilience by standardizing a unified risk management approach across departments. CISOs, cyber risk teams, and executives can leverage real-time risk intelligence for faster insights, leading to smarter decisions and meaningful action.

Why IRM is the future

With the rise of remote work, making strategic changes to risk and compliance through an integrated risk management framework pave the way for business success.  Data is no longer protected on-site, behind procedures and firewalls, complicating how well it can be safeguarded. CISO’s are ultimately responsible for data protection and information security, and in this new remote world, their job is more challenging than ever. By adopting IRM solutions, they free themselves from being tied to spreadsheets and siloed systems. 

Although no system will be perfect, systems must evolve as the threats and attacks also evolve. A castle is only secure until someone crafts a bridge to cross the moat, security is a never-ending game of actions and reactions, and business leaders can put themselves ahead with IRM solutions that offer insight into risk and where bad actors may build those bridges.

To learn more on how remote work is driving IRM adoption, check out our webinar. To augment or replace your current legacy GRC system with Cyberstrong, request a demo.

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