When vendors receive a new security questionnaire from a current or potential client, it’s typically met with a sense of dread. The IT Director wonders if the recent technology updates made it into the spreadsheet of assessment answers. The owner worries because there’s no process in place to periodically update the spreadsheet. The salesperson frets because assessments delay sales. And the security team gets frustrated because they need to drop everything to complete the assessment.
Timeliness and accuracy can win sales. Your company’s future profitability relies on a quick and accurate response that details the steps taken to safeguard against a breach. One forgotten security enhancement can ruin the deal.
Here’s 11 ways to ensure the assessments you receive are answered accurately and in a timely manner, which can alleviate the worries of your entire team.
- Store Answers in a Centralized Location
Security questionnaire answers stored in spreadsheets can create havoc. Version control, permissions and accessibility all create issues when using spreadsheets. More importantly, it’s the constant hunting through rows and rows of answers that creates the real issues: delaying sales and tying up your security team. By storing all your assessment answers in an organized, central repository, your team has the most current answers at their fingertips.
- Keep Answers Consistent: If you answer questionnaires manually, chances are your answers are not consistent between different questionnaires or between different people answering the questions, which can create complications during an audit process. By maintaining a robust knowledge base with organizationally approved answers and automating the answering process, you can ensure you provide consistent responses to compliance requirements.
- Tag Your Answers
Tagging your assessment answers by product, geography, security framework or other category allows your team to compartmentalize your answers for quick review within a central repository.
- Manage Data so Duplicates are Minimized
As spreadsheets are updated, it’s easy to create duplicate answers if your spreadsheets are not organized. Using a central repository allows you to manage your answers so you can search for redundancies to find duplicate responses.
- Develop a Process to Review Answers
Periodically, or when a security measure changes, you team should review your security assessment answers for validity. Automated platforms can alert you when an answer has not been updated or verified by a certain amount of time.
- Rely on Automation to Eliminate Manual Data Entry Errors
Anytime manual data entry is introduced into a process, the opportunity for errors is also introduced. Human intervention can also delay the process. An automated process—one where the security questionnaire is automatically populated with your stored answers—reduces the time required to complete a questionnaire and eliminates human error.
- Keep Track of Evidence and Artifacts
Often, a potential customer will request evidence and artifacts to support your answers. By storing these documents inside your central repository along with your answers, your team can quickly attach the most current versions and send the response as a complete package.
- Reuse the Data for Future Clients
Once stored in a central repository, your security assessment answers and documents can quickly be retrieved and repurposed for the next assessment.
- Include Subject Matter Experts in the Process
Unique security questions arise all the time. When your security team can’t answer a question, they need to chase down the person who can. Often, this turns into a process of elimination to find the right person. Automated platforms allow you to assign questions to Subject Matter Experts within your organization and also allow them to update answers when processes change.
- Add Unique Questions as They Come In
Once your Subject Matter Experts answer these unique questions, it’s important to log those answers so your security team doesn’t have to chase down the answers when they arise the next time. Chances are, these unique questions will get asked on a future questionnaire, so it is a good idea to add the answer to your centralized repository of answers for future reference.
- Track Usage of Answers
Security questionnaires allow your current or potential customers to peek behind the curtain at your internal operations. Your company can also glean information from this process. By tracking the most frequently asked questions, you’ll learn what your clients are most interested in learning about your company and you can polish the answers to these popular questions.
Put the fears and frustrations of your team to rest with an automated vendor risk management solution like ProcessBolt. As a vendor, you can be up and running in no time and completing accurate and timely security questionnaires just by clicking your mouse instead of hunting through spreadsheets.
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