Vendor Fatigue and How to Manage it

Risk Management
September 25, 2023

Every organization needs a set of standardized and actionable cybersecurity measures in place to mitigate cyberattacks. In today’s environment, third-party risk management is an essential tactic to protect the organization from data breaches, supply chain attacks, and consequential reputational damage and financial losses. These policies support a structure with guidelines and practices for businesses to monitor, assess, report, and remediate any risk encountered through suppliers, business partners, and vendors. However, the saying “easier said than done” may come into play as policies and protocols are only as effective as those who are responsible for practicing and enforcing them. There are many factors to consider when compliance with cybersecurity risk management practices is challenged or fails; but today, we will focus on one insidious cause: Vendor Fatigue.

What is Vendor Fatigue?

75% of vendors report feeling overwhelmed by the number of security assessments they receive. (Source: Ponemon Institute’s “The Impact of Cybersecurity Incidents on Reputation & Share Value” report). One of the key reasons for this is that vendors receive a plethora of risk questionnaires, which can be resource- and time-consuming. As businesses conduct diligence and monitor ongoing processes, vendors must fill out risk questionnaires and provide extensive information to help identify and successfully manage any risks. However, most vendors are overwhelmed and exhausted by the myriad questionnaires and processes.

Vendors possess limited capacities and are expected to meet specific expectations, comply with the outlined standards, and provide detailed information. This can result in vendors losing focus and feeling fatigued. This strenuous process can cause frustration, as a vendor may take a copious amount of time to complete the necessary assessments or fail to do so altogether. This can leave the organization vulnerable to cybersecurity risks and could potentially cripple the business.

Some steps can be taken to streamline and ameliorate this time-consuming process and reduce vendor fatigue.

Know Your Vendor

Organizations prioritizing their vendors based on risk are 2.5 times more likely to have a successful vendor risk management program. (Source: Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for IT Vendor Risk Management Tools” report). Prioritize vendors based on the level of risk exposure to the organization. Next, develop a robust vendor onboarding process where every vendor meets security and compliance needs before signing contracts. This approach will make the entire process more efficient while helping the vendor understand and meet the requirements.

Request for Essential Information During the Contract Stage

When onboarding a vendor and drawing out the contract, forward a list of requirements to the vendor. This could be any essential documents, assessments, or questionnaires. This allows the vendor ample time to delegate the outlined tasks and complete the required assessments beforehand.

Ensure Effective Communication

Foster open and clear lines of communication with the vendors. Transparent and effective communication helps ensure that the vendor and organization are on the same page, thereby preventing misunderstandings and facilitating smoother risk management. Encourage the vendor to share information on the security measures and any information that may impact the organization’s risk profile.

Create an Optimized Questionnaire

Prepare a questionnaire that helps the organization better understand the vendor’s risk posture. Consider posing questions that require a more detailed answer at the beginning and more straightforward questions towards the end. This strategy will help vendors focus on providing complete information before becoming fatigued.

Successfully Deploy Third-party Risk Management Software

Invest in comprehensive third-party risk management software designed to help automate lengthy processes such as onboarding, continual monitoring, and reporting. Automating specific processes can reduce the fatigue associated with manual effort and susceptibility to human error while streamlining the entire vendor management process.

Equipping the Workforce

Effective, timely, and continuous education and training of vendor management personnel is essential. Help them with security awareness, best practices on vendor management, and the criticality of adhering to the required vendor risk management processes. This strategic approach will help build better vendor relationships and prevent vendor fatigue.

Businesses can successfully reduce vendor fatigue by creating relevant and concise questionnaires, automating required processes, and communicating the organization’s needs with the vendor. It also helps establish a more resilient third-party vendor risk management program while protecting sensitive data and maintaining regulatory compliance.

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