In today’s interconnected business landscape, outsourcing to third-party vendors and service providers is an effective method for most organizations to improve operational efficiency and lower financial costs. However, as businesses form third-party partnerships, they inherit potential risks and increase the complexity of their third-party ecosystem, as any one vendor can become an attack vector that cybercriminals exploit to pursue a data breach. Vendor risk management (VRM) is a crucial cybersecurity process that enables organizations to mitigate third-party risks and safely outsource without compromising the integrity of their operation. 

Every organization with a successful VRM program utilizes a vendor risk management dashboard to monitor the holistic health of its third-party attack surface. The most well-calibrated VRM dashboards allow security teams to quickly analyze vendor-related data in one centralized interface, including security ratings, identified risks, and compliance status with major regulatory frameworks like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), NIST, and others.  

This article explores VRM dashboards in more detail, outlining key features, essential metrics, design principles, reporting capabilities, and best practices. Keep reading to learn more about how a VRM dashboard can help your organization streamline its vendor risk management or third-party risk management (TPRM) program.  

Eliminate manual work and automate your VRM dashboard with UpGuard Vendor Risk

Key features of a robust VRM dashboard

A robust VRM dashboard comprises many vital features, none more critical than a centralized data repository, secure vendor collaboration channels, and automated risk-based classifications. These features grant security teams comprehensive visibility into the security posture of their third-party vendors, collectively and individually. 

Centralized data repository

A centralized repository for vendor-related data is a crucial component of an effective VRM dashboard and essential for organizations to develop effective vendor risk management protocols. Having a centralized repository allows security teams to access, monitor, and evaluate all vendor performance data, risk profiles, and security evidence in one interface, streamlining holistic VRM processes, easing the burden of compliance with industry frameworks, and improving decision-making. 

In addition, a centralized data repository enables security teams to collaborate efficiently with other internal departments, stakeholders, and vendors during procurement, onboarding, and throughout the vendor lifecycle. Centralized repositories ensure organizations develop an organized, transparent, and proactive approach to managing vendor relationships and their risks.

Example of a centralized vendor repository

UpGuard Vendor Risk provides a robust VRM dashboard with a centralized vendor repository. This comprehensive repository enables users to monitor all their vendors in one place. Users can keep track of all vendor metadata, including the average security rating across their vendor network and the number of outstanding risks associated with each vendor. 

screenshot of upguard's vendor ratings
UpGuard's VRM dashboard grants users complete visibility over their third-party attack surface.

In addition, Vendor Risk’s centralized repository provides users direct access to several automated workflows where they can compare vendors, analyze the composition of their vendor risk matrix, and track the progress of due diligence steps, vendor risk assessments, security questionnaires, and remediation. 

Related reading: What details can UpGuard Vendor Risk provide about a vendor? 

screenshot of UpGuard's risk matrix
Risk matrix visibility in the UpGuard platform

Secure vendor collaboration channels 

Secure communication channels are vital for fostering effective vendor collaboration with an organization’s VRM dashboard. These channels ensure organizations and vendors exchange sensitive data safely, providing another defense against data breaches and unauthorized access. These channels enhance transparency, streamline issue resolution, and support coordinated responses to vendor and supplier risks, compliance requirements, and other security needs by facilitating real-time, secure communications. 

Maintaining secure communication channels is another way for organizations and vendors to build trust, further promoting a collaborative approach to risk management. Overall, secure vendor collaboration channels are an essential component of a VRM dashboard, as they strengthen the integrity and security of vendor interactions and galvanize the overall resilience of an organization’s VRM program. 

Related reading: A Guide to Vendor Relationship Management

Example of secure vendor collaboration channels

UpGuard Trust Exchange revolutionizes the way organizations and vendors share security documents, display certifications, and collaborate. Featuring a combination of powerful automation, AI, and intuitive workflows, Trust Exchange helps security teams share vital security evidence, build trust with their vendors and customers, and ensure their adding value instead of drowning in an endless pool of spreadsheet-based security assessments. 

Trust Exchange harnesses a powerful AI toolkit to enable security teams to eliminate manual processes, save time, and improve efficiency. UpGuard’s AI ToolKit includes an assortment of automated features and capabilities, helping vendors and users speed up the questionnaire process and increase the efficiency of vendor collaboration. 

  • AI Autofill: Enables vendors to auto-populate security questionnaires from a repository of past answers and enables users to receive completed responses in record time
  • AI Enhance: Improves vendor response quality, eliminating typos, refining answers, and minimizing human error 

Automated risk-based classifications

Automated risk-based classifications and workflow-based processes for assessing and categorizing vendor risk are essential for systematic and efficient VRM. These features ensure security teams harness consistent evaluation criteria when assessing vendor risks and security posture, reducing subjectivity and aligning protocols with the organization’s risk tolerance. Automated workflows help personnel streamline risk identification and assessment, flagging high-risk vendors for deeper scrutiny and ensuring timely reviews. 

Ultimately, workflow-based processes enhance an organization’s ability to manage vendor risk proactively. They categorize vendors based on risk levels, appropriately allocate resources, and implement targeted risk mitigation strategies to protect the organization against identified threats and vulnerabilities

Example of automated risk-based classifications

The UpGuard platform scans over 800 billion records against over 70 risk vectors daily, providing users with the most accurate and comprehensive vendor risk ratings. Furthermore, the UpGuard platform utilizes continuous monitoring and evidence gathered from these daily scans to automatically update a user’s portfolio and classify vendors based on their level of risk as it identifies new risks and updates to a vendor’s security posture. 

UpGuard users can view the security rating, risk status, and health of a vendor’s security posture in one centralized dashboard. This dashboard connects seamlessly with a vendor risk matrix and several other workflows where users can pursue remediation, visualize how specific security changes affect a vendor’s security score, and waive accepted risks. 

graphic displaying UpGuard's vendor risk matrix
UpGuard automatically calculates the impact risks and remediation will have on a vendor's security score, improving coordinated risk management efforts.

Essential metrics for a VRM dashboard

The best VRM dashboards provide several essential metrics that detail the health of a user’s third-party attack surface. Important metrics security teams should track include vendor compliance rate, risk ratings, and incident frequency. 

Vendor compliance rate

By tracking the vendor compliance rate across their third-party ecosystem, security teams can quickly identify what percentage of their vendors comply with regulatory frameworks and internal compliance requirements. 

Tracking vendor compliance with UpGuard

UpGuard’s comprehensive VRM dashboard enables users to monitor vendor compliance against specific industry frameworks like ISO 27001 and NIST CSF. Organizations can use this compliance tracking feature to identify non-compliant vendors, easily view sections of the framework vendors don’t comply with, and prioritize remediation with those vendors. 

Vendor risk rating

Utilizing a VRM dashboard that tracks vendors’ risk ratings enables security teams to assess vendor risk levels continuously. By continuously assessing a vendor’s risk level, organizations can stay ahead of emerging threats and proactively mitigate vulnerabilities, safeguarding their operation from disruptive cyber incidents and severe data breaches. 

Tracking vendor risk ratings with UpGuard

screenshot of UpGuard's vendor summary
Vendor summary in the UpGuard platform

UpGuard Vendor Risk continuously monitors vendor risk levels around the clock. Vendor Risk is always on, meaning security teams can have peace of mind 24/7. The UpGuard platform also automatically tracks changes in a vendor’s security posture and enables users to see when and why a vendor’s security posture changed. 

Vendor incident frequency

Tracking the frequency of vendor incidents is another essential component of a robust VRM dashboard. Having visibility over this metric allows security teams to measure how often a vendor exposes their organization to a security incident. The best VRM dashboards will also provide insight into the severity of these incidents and allow security teams to use this evidence to generate vendor reports seamlessly. 

Tracking incident frequency with UpGuard

UpGuard’s Vendor Risk profile feature outlines a vendor’s security rating, history, and current risks. From here, users can dive into the status of individual security incidents, including their severity, category, risk, and number of sites exposed to the incident.

UpGuard's risk profile
UpGuard's Risk Profile feature
graphic showing UpGuard's vendor security ratings
UpGuard automatically tracks a vendor's security posture over time

Design principles for effective VRM dashboards 

An effective VRM dashboard will incorporate several design principles to empower teams to manage vendor risks efficiently. Well-designed VRM dashboards provide clear, actionable insights that support informed vendor-related decision-making. By focusing on clarity, simplicity, and context, organizations can ensure their VRM dashboard is user-friendly and optimized to enhance the effectiveness of their vendor risk management program. 

Clarity and simplicity

Ensuring a VRM dashboard adheres to clear and simple design principles is essential to make it user-friendly and easy to understand. Clear and straightforward design involves using transparent labels to describe all data and vendor workflows, maintaining consistent formatting across the dashboard, and employing simple visualizations that appropriately convey information, trends, and patterns. A well-designed dashboard will enable all users, including governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) teams, stakeholders, and vendors, to grasp critical details at a glance, facilitating seamless collaboration and quick decision-making. 

Screenshot showing UpGuard's cyberrisk rating feature
UpGuard uses consistent formatting, labels, and visualizations to highlight data and trends

Context and insights

In addition to being designed with clarity and simplicity, the best VRM dashboards provide context and insights through tailored workflows. An organization’s VRM dashboard should offer benchmarks, targets, and actionable insights to provide security teams with a comprehensive overview of what is currently affecting a vendor’s security posture and how the vendor can remediate these risks moving forward. 

screenshot of UpGuard's remediation request workflow
UpGuard's VRM dashboard shows how specific risks and remediation practices will impact an organization's security posture and rating.

Reporting Capabilities in VRM Dashboards

Reporting is another essential feature of an effective VRM dashboard. Creating data-driven reports is an excellent way for security teams to highlight their organization’s security posture, risk exposure, regulatory compliance, environmental, social, and governance (ESG), and vendor management goals. 

Customizable reporting

The highest-quality VRM dashboards provide security teams the functionality to create customizable reports for various stakeholders, including an organization’s board of directors, senior executives, investors, and internal teams and departments.

Related reading: How to Write the Executive Summary of a Cybersecurity Report

Board-level reporting

Board meetings often call for high-level overviews and detailed risk reports. An organization’s vendor risk management dashboard should empower security teams to export data and create reports to inform the board seamlessly. 

Related reading: How to Create a Cybersecurity Board Report (3 Best Practices)

Reporting capabilities in UpGuard Vendor Risk

UpGuard makes it easy for security teams to generate reports for various stakeholders, including vendors, customers, and executives. The UpGuard Reports Library includes several report templates that provide a snapshot of a user’s vendor security posture, including a Board Summary Report. This report consists of a “least and most improved vendor” section, allowing stakeholders to quickly understand how the organization’s vendor security profile has changed over the last month.

screenshot of UpGuard's reports being imported to powerpoint
UpGuard users can easily export reports to Microsoft PowerPoint

Watch the video above to learn more about other reports available within UpGuard’s industry-leading Reports Library.

UpGuard's reports library
UpGuard's industry-leading Reports Library

Best Practices for implementing VRM dashboards

  • Define your audience: Who will use your dashboard? When will they use it? What will they use it for? Ask yourself these questions to tailor your dashboard to meet the specific needs of all its users. 
  • Define your purpose: What are your organization’s overall VRM goals? What improvements are you trying to implement into your VRM program? What phase of the VRM lifecycle needs improvement the most? Ask yourself these questions to define the purpose of your VRM dashboard. 
  • Test your dashboard: How will you define the success of your VRM dashboard? What performance metrics will you track? Better cyber hygiene, lower residual risks, increased security posture, etc.? Ask yourself these questions to define parameters to test the effectiveness of your dashboard. 
  • Refine your dashboard: How has the VRM dashboard performed? Are there any complaints or highlights from users? How can you refine the dashboard to provide more insight into your organization’s vendor network? Ask yourself these questions to refine your dashboard continuously over time. 

Elevate your entire VRM program with UpGuard Vendor Risk

UpGuard is an industry-leading provider of vendor, supply chain, and third-party risk management software solutions. UpGuard Vendor Risk grants security teams complete visibility over their vendor network, identifying emerging threats, providing robust remediation workflows, and increasing cyber hygiene and security posture in one intuitive workflow. 

Here’s what a few UpGuard customers have said about their experience using UpGuard Vendor Risk

  • iDeals: "In terms of pure security improvement across our company, we now complete hundreds of maintenance tickets, which is a massive advancement we couldn’t have achieved without UpGuard. We previously wouldn’t have detected at least 10% of those tickets, so UpGuard has enabled us to work faster by detecting issues quickly and providing detailed information to remediate these issues."
  • Built Technologies: “UpGuard is phenomenal. We’re required to do an annual internal review of all third-party vendors. We have an ongoing continuous review with UpGuard through its automated scanning and security scoring system.”
  • Tech Mahindra: “It becomes easy to monitor hundreds of vendors on the UpGuard platform with instant email notifications if the vendor’s score drops below the threshold set based on risk scores.”

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