Let's be honest – nobody likes security questionnaires. To vendors, they're irritating workflow interruptions, always seeming to arrive at the most inconvenient times. To businesses, they mark the first stage of a long, drawn-out process where vendors need to be continuously pestered to complete them.
In this post, we outline three proven strategies for streamlining the security questionnaire process to eliminate stress for both the businesses that send them and the vendors receiving them.
1. Create a Central Repository of Common Security Questionnaire Queries
Many security questionnaires tend to repeat the same types of questions. For vendors, this means a significant amount of time is wasted completing the same responses repeatedly. By saving assessment questionnaire responses in a central repository, security team members can copy and paste previous security questionnaire responses and avoid the time-consuming effort of addressing each repeated question.
Because any question could potentially be repeated, ideally, all questionnaire responses should be saved to compress future response processes. This can be done in a Google Spreadsheet, where each response is saved in a sheet dedicated to each questionnaire type.
Here’s an example.
Once you have a decent library of saved responses across multiple sheets, you can cross-reference new risk assessments with this spreadsheet to check whether you have any relevant answers saved. To do this, open the search function (Command+F for Mac and Ctrl+F for Windows) and start typing the question you are querying.
If it’s saved in the sheet, the entire cell in which the question is saved will be highlighted.
Google Sheets doesn’t offer a simple process of password-protecting sheets. The easisest way to control access is to set the Sharing settings to only members of your organization.
To expedite the review of questionnaire submissions, they should be assigned to subject matter experts (SMEs) in each security category being queried.
Though this method of storing a library of previous responses is free, it’s not very user-friendly and certainly not ideal when scaling your Vendor Risk Management program. The search process in Google Sheets is very rigid. You can only identify exact phrase matches, which isn’t very helpful in most real-life scenarios, as many information security questionnaires have slight variations of the same types of questions.
An ideal alternative is to use a Vendor Risk Management solution with in-built questionnaire autofill features, such as UpGuard.
How UpGuard Can Help
UpGuard’s Questionnaire Autofill feature scans previous security question responses from a vendor’s organization and suggests autofill answers - without the need for manual searching. All responses are saved from UpGuard’s library of pre-built, industry-standard questionnaires, including:
- ISO 27001.
- The National Institute of Standards (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
- CIS Controls 7.1 Security Standard Questionnaire.
- And many other editable questionnaire templates.
Learn more about UpGuard’s security questionnaires >
Third-party vendors can see the approximate percentage of the questionnaire that can be answered with previous responses. These responses can then be instantly inserted, leaving only the items unique to a questionnaire.
By helping service providers complete repeated questionnaires faster, UpGuard’s auto-fill feature gives more time back to vendors - time that can be better spent on
new questionnaire items, improving the quality of answers, and responding to follow-up inquiries.
Faster security questionnaire completions means businesses can detect third-party risks leading to costly data breaches sooner.
Request a free trial of UpGuard >
2. Share Information Proactively
If, as a vendor, you only share details about your security posture when prompted with a security questionnaire, you’re following a reactive approach to questionnaire management, which isn’t efficient. A reactive approach assumes your security teams will always have the capacity to address incoming questionnaires promptly, and unless you currently live in a cybersecurity utopia, this is rarely the case.
A proactive approach involves making the most up-to-date information about your cybersecurity efforts readily available to current and prospective partners, allowing vendors to build trust in their partnerships. The details could involve completed security assessments, certifications, security practices, and any other relevant information about an organization’s security.
In a third-party cybersecurity relationship, a proactive approach reduces the number of security questionnaires a vendor needs to complete.
Because a proactive approach provides business partners with greater awareness of the cybersecurity efforts of their vendors, this strategy reduces the number of security questionnaires a vendor needs to compete.
A proactive strategy also demonstrates confidence in your security controls, security framework, and overall ability to protect the customer data your organization has been entrusted with.
How UpGuard Can Help
UpGuard allows vendors to proactively inform their partners about their cybersecurity efforts through its Shared Profile feature. This feature allows vendors to host information relevant to their security posture on a dedicated page, which could include completed security questionnaires, certifications, security policies, or any other relevant security and compliance documents.
Access to Shared Profiles can easily be controlled with NDAs and access request management to protect sensitive data hosted on Shared Profiles.
Providing completed security questionnaires to prospective partners also reduces time spent on cybersecurity due diligence, allowing sales teams to close deals faster.
Proactively sharing completed risk assessments expedites security reviews by prospective partners, reducing the sales process and sales cycles.
UpGuard removes the burden of manually managing access to an internal library of always up-to-date security information by allowing vendors to host their security program information in one centralized location.
Request a free trial of UpGuard >
3. Improve collaboration between vendor risk assessment parties
By reducing time spent on repeated questions and proactively sharing security posture information with business partners, you will have transitioned from a reactive to a proactive approach to security questionnaire management.
Transitioning from a reactive to a proactive approach to Vendor Risk Management is the most significant shift, as it makes the difference between a vendor relationship and a difficult one.
Though this change is enough to elevate your security questionnaire management well above average efforts, it can be further optimized by streamlining collaborations between all involved parties.
The most frustrating areas of collaboration in the vendor risk assessment process include:
- Keeping track of questionnaire response changes - Without knowing which questionnaire responses have been charged, businesses cannot remain informed about each vendor's most up-to-date security posture information.
- Inefficient remediation request processes - Detected third-party security risks must be actioned ASAP to reduce the risk of beaches. A lack of an efficient remediation request process means breach-facilitating vulnerabilities remain unaddressed - sometimes until cybercriminals discover and exploit them.
- Email collaborations - All questionnaire-related queries are typically addressed via email, where they usually get missed. Another major frustration of email collaborations is that they typically require lengthy explanations to contextualize the issue.
How UpGuard Can Help
UpGuard is continuously developing new features to help businesses and their vendors adopt a collaborative approach to security questionnaire management. Some of the current features available on the UpGuard platform include the following:
1. Questionnaire Changes View
The feature addresses the issue of parties missing questionnaire response changes, resulting in an inaccurate understanding of a vendor’s security posture.
The questionnaire changes view on the UpGuard platform highlights all of the responses that have been modified, keeping you continuously informed of each vendor’s most up-to-date security risks.
See UpGuard’s questionnaire changes view feature in action >
2. Streamlined Remediation Requests
This feature addresses the frustration of poor remediation management programs that overwhelm security teams.
UpGuard’s Remediation Requests feature allows you to instantly request remediations based on risks detected in automated scans and completed risk assessments. UpGuard also supports Zapier integrations, enabling you to create custom notification sequences based on your unique remediation workflow.
See UpGuard’s remediation feature in action >
3. In-Line Questionnaire Correspondence & Annotations
This feature addresses the frustration of disjointed communication when corresponding via email
UpGuard’s in-line questionnaire feature allows all parties to append their queries to specific questionnaire items. By clearly identifying which questionnaire item is being referenced and having visibility into conversation histories, this feature removes the need for email collaborations and all of the frustrations caused by this outdated communication medium.