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Risks are a part of everyday life. No matter what decision we take, we always weigh the pros and cons. This core element of our daily lives is risk assessment. When it comes to cybersecurity, risks are omnipresent. Whether it is a bank dealing with financial transactions or medical providers handling the personal data of patients, cybersecurity threats are unavoidable. The only way to efficiently combat these threats is to understand them.

The risk management decisions we make in our daily life are done reflexively; however, you cannot walk into a business meeting and cite a hunch as a strategic plan. The challenge is translating that efficient risk-based decision making into the business sphere. This is why it’s important to carefully review and understand the meaning of risk management, the essential elements of the risk management process, approaches to risk management, and finally why risk management is a pressing need in organizations.

What Are the Key Elements in a Risk Management Process?

While each organization is bound to have a different approach to IT risk management, these four steps form the basis of any effective process:

1. Brainstorming

The first step is the identification of risks. All potential risks need to be catalogued and memorialized in writing in order to form the basis of a risk register. It’s essential to collect viewpoints from different sources and especially different departments to ensure the company doesn’t overlook any risks.

2. Risk Analysis

Next, determine the likelihood of each risk. Risks must be ranked based on priority to ensure the optimal use of resources. While doing so, you will come across risks that can cause immediate damage, risks that need to be addressed quickly, and those that need attention but can wait. The risk register must contain qualitative assumptions about the likelihood, severity, and impact of the risks. The register can also be expanded to include risk reduction and remediation steps.

Some risks might even be essential for business operations and act as a positive business driver. For example, in simple economics, if demand is greater than supply, that can strain a business. However, that would be a positive risk of conducting business.

3. Risk Response

Once all the potential risks are documented, you can formulate the strategy to deal with each one of them. If there are positive risks, you can work towards leveraging them for the benefit of your organization. Here, specialization comes into play. While some teams such as the legal and communication teams must be involved in all risk response operations, other aspects of risk response must be assigned to the department with expertise in that area in order to achieve the best results.

4. Risk Monitoring

After understanding the potential risks and devising mitigation strategies, you must continually review and revise the process as well as the risk register. Communication is crucial. Risk monitoring will help you accomplish this task with maximum benefits.

After the risk management process has been implemented, the type of risk will determine the specific approach that the company will take towards its management.

Different Approaches to Risk Management

1. Risk Avoidance

It is impossible to eliminate risks. However, an organization can take measures to reduce the costs that arise from these risks by devising efficient mitigation strategies. This approach focuses on deflecting as many risks as possible to operate as smoothly as possible.

2. Risk Acceptance

In some cases, a risk is accepted under the necessity of the cost of doing business. For example, a manufacturing company always accepts the risk that some defective products will be produced. However, if the cost of the risk is less than the anticipated benefits of a project, a company can decide to accept that risk and plan for the future with that caveat in mind. Also, as mentioned earlier, not all risks are adverse.

3. Risk Reduction

Though risks are an inevitable part of any venture, they can be reduced to a certain extent. Companies can do this by either adjusting certain aspects of the project or reducing the scope of  project.

4. Risk Sharing

Organizations often share risks amongst different departments or even with a third party to reduce the overall cost. In some cases, risk-sharing can extend to risk transference, which is what everyone does when they purchase an insurance policy. They transfer the risk to another party who is willing to assume that the company’s approach to the risk is within acceptable guidelines.

Ultimately, a firm can adopt any approach to deal with a risk depending on underlying policies. Risk management can be an extensive process, but it is a worthwhile endeavor.

What Are the Benefits of Risk Management for an Organization?

1. Improved Business Reputation

Data breaches shake the foundation of trust customers have in a company. Organizations that take proactive steps to secure the confidential data of their consumers tend to do more business and be in the news for positive reasons. Ultimately, a risk management strategy ensures loyal customers and promotes a healthy business.

2. Minimization of Losses

Cybersecurity breaches can be costly to companies. They lead to the loss of consumers due to a lack of trust and can result in fines and lawsuits. Ultimately, investing in software development and employee management for cybersecurity pays for itself in the long run.

3. Increased Employee Engagement 

An efficient risk management strategy isn’t just beneficial to the customers. Protecting the confidential data of the employees encourages trust and loyalty within the company. In turn, productivity increases as morale is boosted and the employees feel more connected with the organization. 

Final Words

No organization can know exactly when and where a risk will appear. But an effective IT risk management process can combat risks that do arise whether those risks are technological disruption, threats to the supply chain, or breaches in data privacy. People, data, and structures should all be kept in mind while following a proactive risk management process. An organization needs to invest the time and resources into the process to ensure the right steps are taken when challenges arise. Risks don’t need to hold a company back from reaching its true potential.

About the Author: Charles Lawrence is a Cybersecurity Consultant who has a flair for writing technical content. He has completed his master’s degree in Cybersecurity from the EC-Council University and has earned the CCISO certification. He is in a pursuit to share all that he has learned in his years of experience working at various levels of hierarchy in companies with the cybersecurity aspirants and experts at large. He is a hodophile, intensely curious about everything, and eager to learn new things.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.