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2 Important Components of Vendor Risk Management Automation

5 min read
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Vendor risk management can feel overwhelming when considering the number of interrelated requirements, processes and tasks that go into onboarding and managing a single vendor. Take those efforts and multiply them by the number of vendors in your organization, and the ability to accomplish even a minimum standard of effective vendor risk management can be challenging even for the most seasoned vendor risk managers.

While it’s true that vendor risk management is a “team sport,” there’s still a significant amount of coordination required to ensure stakeholder collaborations and deliverables happen at the right time. The vendor risk program manager often serves as “air traffic control,” requiring extensive effort when using manual processes. If you notice that the work product is inconsistent, deadlines aren’t being met, stakeholders are unclear about their deliverables and the employees complain about the process, it’s time to consider automation seriously.

Automating manual processes and tasks through a vendor risk management system can provide many benefits, but it’s important to choose the right platform. Let’s identify two important components that should be included in your platform and how these features can benefit your overall vendor risk management program.

Component 1: Efficiency 

It’s not unusual for vendor risk management teams to be significantly understaffed. So, it’s essential to make sure your existing resources are working as efficiently as possible. When workflows are standardized and automated, you increase capacity and productivity in the following ways:

  • Improve the consistency and speed of your onboarding, assessments, monitoring, contract renewals management and even vendor terminations.
  • Enhance collaboration by providing a central source of documentation, relationship notes, open issues and status reporting.
  • Prevent missed deadlines through automated email requests, reminders, tasks notifications and management reporting.
  • Determine the right data points and report for any specific audience through custom reporting. Reports can also be automated, which can remove the need for frequent individual follow-ups.
components of vendor risk management automation

Component 2: Precision-Based Tools

Manual processes, such as data entry on a spreadsheet, tend to be error-prone, subject to user inconsistencies and vulnerable to version control problems. Using a vendor risk management system gives back valuable time to your stakeholders and eliminates or significantly reduces issues in these areas:

  • Data entry: Automation decreases the amount of data entry and workflow management required to accomplish administrative tasks, allowing your vendor risk management team to spend their time focusing on identifying and mitigating risks.
  • Updates: When workflows are automated, each stakeholder is engaged at the right time and notified of the correct deliverable, reducing the amount of effort necessary to keep everyone updated and on task.
  • Risk profiles: Customized inherent risk and due diligence questionnaires improve the ability to identify and understand the potential impacts of the actual risks in any specific engagement. In an engagement, identifying and targeting the right risks streamlines the ability to appropriately scope due diligence, ensure a properly structured contract and set the right cadence for ongoing risk and performance reviews.

What to Consider When Choosing a Vendor Risk Management Tool

It’s important to remember that all vendor risk management systems aren’t created equally. Just as there are many excellent software solutions available, there are also ineffective and limited tools. The wrong tool might not be that much better than existing manual processes. Before seriously considering any solution, it’s important to identify your business requirements and review multiple VRM systems carefully.

Eleven important questions to ask about the tool you’re considering:

  1. Is the tool specifically designed to address vendor risk management? Be cautious of modules that are part of other tools (procurement, compliance or legal), as there can be design and functionality limitations because of the need to make different processes work together in the same tool.
  2. What level of vendor risk management expertise does the provider have? Do they understand the best practices and regulatory requirements?
  3. What level of support does the provider offer as you customize the tool and transfer your existing data? Responsive support from the provider can help streamline the implementation process and reduce the possibility of rework.
  4. Can you customize workflows, risk ratings and criteria, questionnaires and access by role? Many providers will tout customization as a feature, but you must understand what is required to customize the tool. Do you need to understand computer programing code to make a simple change? Or, is the customization simple? Have the provider demonstrate how to customize different components from scratch and in real-time.
  5. What controls are available to ensure the correct workflow and approvals? Make sure to understand the testing of these controls, as well as the process for identifying any issues.
  6. How friendly is the user interface? Is it straightforward to navigate and locate the data each stakeholder may need? Is it easy to learn and train others? Does the provider include user education tools and procedures?
  7. What kind of automated notification features are there? Determine if it’s simple to set up templated automated emails and replies. Consider how distribution lists are created.
  8. How easy is it to build customized reporting? Think about if reporting can be exported or integrated into other reporting tools through an API.
  9. Do they offer integration to other services such as risk alerts and monitoring? Integrating your vendor risk management services will provide you with a centralized system so your program can operate at its peak performance.
  10. Can you purchase functionality based on what you need? And, can you seamlessly add additional functionality in the future?
  11. How many vendors and users are included in the price? Find out if they charge to add more.

Moving away from manual processes and to a vendor risk management system should provide your organization with many benefits, including effectiveness, efficiency, accuracy and accountability, just to name a few. Beyond the automation efficiencies, a great vendor risk management tool should help you enforce your policy and strengthen your overall framework. Choosing the right vendor risk management solution requires preparation, research and careful consideration, but will be worth your efforts as it can help transform your vendor risk management processes from frustrating to fabulous.

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