4 Steps to Launching an Integrated Risk Management Strategy

Melissa Cohoe


December 13, 2022

Building an Integrated Risk Management Strategy

In recent years, many companies have undertaken significant digital transformation initiatives to better accommodate the needs of a remote and hybrid workforce and stay resilient. This distributed workforce introduces increased risks, however, from data loss to compliance issues to lack of security awareness and training. As a result, organizations need a digital risk management strategy that comprehensively views both employees and external partners.

To better grasp those risks, companies are turning to integrated risk management (IRM) strategies, which provide a near-real-time view of their most significant risk exposures. Armed with this data, organizations can then direct funding and implement policy in the most impactful for their business. As your organization gets started on their own IRM initiatives, the following are four areas to focus on:

1. Understand Your Assets

You cannot protect what you don’t know you have. Each team within the organization should know its different assets, whether physical or digital.

Some of the more common assets with a distributed workforce include laptops, smartphones and company vehicles. There are areas to consider outside the company, too. For example, if you work with a partner to deliver goods, that supply chain is an asset.

Company and consumer information are also assets, and we are in an era where consumers value their privacy more than ever. Major tech players are taking note. Apple’s future iOS updates will let users select what data each app can access. Google is eliminating tracking cookies from Chrome beginning next year. Facebook will remove tracking options for specific topics.

As always, you also must protect sensitive information, such as credit card information, Social Security numbers or healthcare data. Knowing your assets inside and out will set you up for success as you build your IRM strategy because you can more clearly see the areas where risk is greater.

2. Develop an IRM Team—With Buy-In from Executives

Gartner notes IRM is “a set of practices and processes supported by a risk-aware culture and enabling technologies, that improves decision making and performance through an integrated view of how well an organization manages its unique set of risks.”

There is a key phrase in that definition: “a risk-aware culture.” If you do not have a dedicated team to develop strategies, tactics and review technologies, your IRM effort will fail before it even gets off the ground.

This team should include risk and compliance officers, but you will also want someone who can manage third-party vendors, suppliers and partners. Since IRM is a large undertaking, a good project manager is also a boon to your team.

Perhaps the most important people to get onboard are your key C-suite decision-makers. They are often the ones that have the final say. They need to understand the benefits of IRM—namely, how it can help save (or earn) the company money in the long run by properly identifying risks, fixing security vulnerabilities, and making decisions that lead to favorable outcomes.

3. Embed Risk Management Across Your Organization

Integrated risk management is more comprehensive than a traditional risk management plan simply by the number of people and amount of planning involved. Yet there are still a few focus areas that organizations need to emphasize.

Risk management must be embedded across all levels of the organization. Move away from legacy compliance-type programs and focus on integrating risk across all three lines of defense.

That means the managers and executives should have the same insight into risk as the people in the trenches who regularly work with regulations and standards. And internal and external auditors should be able to easily see what both groups are doing. Put those lines of defense together, and you have a smoothly running organization where employees have more autonomy and agility.

Baking a risk management mindset into your organizational culture and identity can help improve this process. Introduce new tools to increase efficiency or try gamifying security best practices throughout your team. A little healthy competition never hurts when trying to overcome risk.

4. Report On and Grow Your IRM Strategy Over Time

An IRM strategy is not a simple set it and forget it model. New risks will always come into play. It might be another global pandemic, unique threats from new technology, or political risks from across the globe. Additionally, regulations around privacy and operational resilience will only increase. This means organizations need to take steps to mature their risk management programs.

One of those steps is moving from a compliance-focused, “check it off the list” method to a more measured integrated risk management program. Instead of hunting down reports from other teams and functions—which might be input into spreadsheets in several different formats—you can largely automate reporting to deliver all the information in one place. This will allow you to use the insights you have gained from your reporting to better assess risk and predict future outcomes.

Melissa Cohoe is global director of security, risk and resiliency at NewRocket.