Your security questionnaire workflow is the litmus test for the efficiency of your overall Vendor Risk Management program. If this pipeline gets congested, all of the VRM processes, depending on it, get disrupted, which impacts your security posture and heightens your risk of suffering a third-party data breach.

If you’re in the market for a solution to streamline security questionnaire and risk assessment processes, this post outlines the top automation features to look for to improve the efficiency of your vendor security program.

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4 Top Features of the Best Security Questionnaire Automation Software

For third-party vendors, submitting security questionnaire answers is among the top frustrations of third-party risk management. Questionnaires and security assessments are time-consuming and repetitive, often consisting of the same types of questions about security practices, security controls, data security, data privacy, and security policies, with only slight nuances between business partners. Add to this security and compliance tracking cocktail spreadsheets and manual processes, and you get a cybersecurity framework that can’t keep up with emerging cyber risks and vulnerabilities.

In a 2021 study, 60% of information security professionals rated questionnaire answer reviewing as one of the most frustrating stages of the questionnaire lifecycle.

Luckily, with an automation tool mapping to the features listed below, the due diligence and information security bottlenecks caused by delayed security questionnaire responses can be removed - making life much easier for security teams and service providers.

Delayed Security Questionnaire Responses also delay sales processes, impacting sales team performance.

1. Improving Questionnaire Responses with AI Technology

Issue being addressed: Poor quality responses

Security assessments and questionnaires are used when deep attack surface insights need to be extracted. As such, their questions tend to be complicated, requiring a significant devotion of time and attention to answer sufficiently. With service providers inundated with multiple security questionnaire requests, they’re unlikely to have sufficient bandwidth to answer each of your questions comprehensively. This inevitably leads to the habitual poor practice of rushing through questionnaires with poor-quality responses, which only creates the illusion of progress.

Poor-quality security questionnaire responses will always require further clarification, causing avoidable workflow delays.

The problems of poor-quality security responses can be addressed with the integration of Artificial Intelligence technology. Though the infosec industry was initially uncomfortable with the potential impact of tools like ChatGPT,  there’s one benefit to the technology everyone can agree on - transforming bullet-point instructions into informative sentences. When applied to questionnaire response workflows, the efficiency and quality improvement potential become rather significant.

Learn how to use ChatGPT to improve your security posture >

We will use the UpGuard platform to demonstrate the potential of this technology.

AIEnhance by UpGuard uses AI technology to generate comprehensive security questionnaire responses from either a set of bullet points or a roughly written draft. Without the pressure of also focusing on the readability component of writing responses, service providers can solely focus on communicating value.

AIEnhance allows users to transform a set of bullet points, or a roughly written draft, into complete sentences with just a single click.
AIEnhance allows users to transform a set of bullet points, or a roughly written draft, into complete sentences with just a single click.

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2. Auto-Filling Questionnaire Responses

Issue being addressed: Repetitive Questions

While AI technology is great for helping vendors complete new questions faster, it’s not the complete solution for repetitive questionnaires. To address the complete scope of this unavoidable problem, automation technology could be used to discover repeated questions and map these events to their corresponding saved responses.

Using the UpGuard platform to illustrate the resulting automation process, this technology prescans a questionnaire to project the number of repeated questions that can be instantly answered with previously saved responses. In the example below, this technology detected 270 questions that can automatically filled out.

UpGuard’s autofill feature allows users to use saved responses to complete questionnaires much faster.
UpGuard’s autofill feature allows users to use saved responses to complete questionnaires much faster.

The significant time-saving benefits of this single application of automation technology will improve vendor relationships by building trust through your demonstration of understanding common questionnaire frustrations.

Another UpGuard feature that supports faster questionnaire completions is AI Autofill.

By referencing historical questionnaire submission data, UpGuard's AI Autofill feature suggests responses, removing the headache of managing previous questionnaire information in spreadsheets.

UpGuard's AI Autofill feature suggesting a response based on referenced source data.
UpGuard's AI Autofill feature suggesting a response based on referenced source data.

Watch this video for an overview of UpGuard's AI Autofill feature.

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3. In-Line Questionnaire Correspondence

Sluggish communication processes are overlooked causes of inefficient questionnaire workflows. In a perfect cybersecurity world, security teams send a vendor a questionnaire, who reads it, completes it, and then sends it back. But in the real world, the questionnaire lifecycle isn’t so linear.

Even with the latest AI automation expediting questionnaire responses, your risk assessment workflows will still face roadblocks when vendors have clarifying questions about specific questionnaire items.

Without a dedicated communication pathway for this inevitable scenario, these collaborations occur in the most inefficient communication medium since the tin can telephone - email.

Security questionnaire automation software, like UpGuard, solves this problem by allowing users to append conversation pathways to specific questionnaire items, making tracking unresolved queries and conversation histories easier.

UpGuard's in-line correspondance feature.
UpGuard's in-line correspondance feature.

See UpGuard’s in-line questionnaire feature in action >

4. Cyber Regulation and Framework Compliance Tracking

Besides streamlining questionnaire responses, tracking regulatory and framework compliance for each third-party vendor is one of the most frustrating stages of Vendor Risk Management. Any automation that could make this stage easier will make every party happy, even stakeholders, since greater alignment means sensitive information is more secure and costly regulatory violations are less likely.

Compliance tracking automation automatically determines compliance risks that need to be addressed based on vendor questionnaire responses.

Learn what to do if a vendor doesn’t have a SOC report >

Here’s an example of a list of compliance risks detected on the UpGuard platform. As you can see, risks are ordered based on decreasing criticality to help security teams prioritize risks with the greatest positive impact.

Compliance risks detected on the UpGuard platform.
Compliance risks detected on the UpGuard platform.

An ideal compliance tracking solution should offer questionnaire templates based on popular regulations and frameworks, such as:

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