8 IT Risk Management Best Practices You Need for Business Resilience

8 it risk management best practices you need for business resilience

Written By: Contender Solutions

For any business, finding ways to manage risks is crucial for ensuring long-term success. This is especially true of IT risks. In recent years, IT has become an indispensable part of business operations because it empowers service delivery for both internal users (employees) and external users (vendors, business partners, and customers) of a company’s products and services.

IT risk management, or the practice of identifying and taking steps to limit the impact of intentional or accidental harm to the company’s IT network, is a must-have for modern businesses.

What are some common IT risks that businesses need to know about? How can a business minimize its IT risks?

5 Common IT Risks You Need to Know

There are countless IT risks that businesses face—some created by the malicious actions of others and some that arise from a specific lack of capability on the part of the business. A few of the common IT risks that businesses face include:

1. Lacking Cybersecurity Policies

Many businesses have a distinct lack of cybersecurity policies regarding IT risk management and cybersecurity in general. This is problematic because it not only introduces increased risk for security breaches, it can make the business less agile in the event of an IT incident.

It is all too common for a business to have no set policy in place for managing IT incidents—or to have one that is loosely-defined and doesn’t set specific roles and responsibilities for employees.

2. Poorly-Defined Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is when an employee uses their personally-owned devices for doing work. While this can help a company save money on providing employees hardware, it can also create numerous vulnerabilities for IT risks.

For example, if an employee brings a malware-infected device to work and connects to the office’s Wi-Fi, that malware could spread to other devices on the network. Alternatively, if they’re working from home using personal devices and Wi-Fi that has insufficient security, they could become a data breach risk.

3. Minimal IT Training/Knowledge

In any IT system, the system’s users are often the weakest link in the security chain. Employees who don’t know or follow cybersecurity best practices can open a system up to severe risks—such as malware infections, data loss, or data breaches.

Additionally, a lack of knowledge about IT systems can impede productivity as employees struggle to use complex systems. This can reduce the ROI that the organization realizes from its IT assets.

4. Slow Manual IT Processes

Manual IT processes for migrating data, managing responses to common requests, and IT asset lifecycle management are both slow and prone to error. Speed of response is a critical part of maintaining business agility. However, waiting for a person to manually discover a need, initiate a response, and carry out workflow tasks can severely reduce agility.

Additionally, user error can cause further delays in IT processes. For example, if a user copies data into a table for a customer contact list, but accidentally misses a few pieces of contact information, it will take time for the document to be completely reviewed and corrected. Alternatively, the missing data could be missed entirely, resulting in some data loss.

5. Lack of Data Backups

Data backups are a critical element for modern business operations. The risks posed by permanent data loss are too severe to ignore. For example, if a business lost its accounts payable/receivable data, it could severely impact cash flow and vendor relationships.

Threats like ransomware, accidental data destruction, and random system failures can easily lead to the loss of data. Without a reliable data backup, important information can be permanently lost. This can have a major negative impact on business operations.

What Is IT Risk Management?

IT risk management is very similar to other forms of risk management—though it is specific to IT assets and processes. It is a collection of policies, procedures, and control systems used to minimize the risks (and impacts) of an organization’s IT assets.

Another definition of risk management provided by TechTarget is: “the process of identifying, assessing, and controlling threats to an organization’s capital and earnings.” Following IT risk management best practices can help organizations improve business resilience while realizing cost reductions by avoiding the worst impacts of various IT risks.

8 IT Risk Management Best Practices

What are some important best practices to follow to minimize IT risks and their impacts?

1. Leading by Example

Leading by example is an important part of effective leadership in many organizations. As noted in an article by the University of Notre Dame: “People follow leaders they trust. When a team leader sets the right example for successfully accomplishing goals and conducting business, the team follows.”

Leaders who follow IT risk management best practices set an appropriate example and demonstrate that cybersecurity rules set by the organization are important. If leaders flaunt the IT rules, however, employees are much less likely to take them seriously.

So, it’s important for leaders in the organization to consistently follow IT risk management best practices and demonstrate positive behaviors to their direct reports.

2. Creating Clear Communication Channels across Teams

Effective communication is a must for ensuring business agility and keeping everyone working towards the business’ goals. It is also important for ensuring that members of different business units use processes and resources in a consistent manner. This helps reduce the risk of confusion when employees are collaborating across different business units.

Creating clear communication channels across different teams also helps with the sharing of important information and updates. For example, if one business unit notices an issue with the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) software, they can communicate that issue with other business units that may be affected. From there, different teams might be able to share their fixes for the issue or the teams could move the issue up the chain to IT management teams to resolve it.

Being able to communicate about IT issues and having consistent processes that simplify collaboration between different business units can be invaluable for reducing friction and avoiding unnecessary costs for wasted time and labor.

3. Frequently Revising IT Risk Management Processes

One of the issues with hardware and software asset management, in general, is that a business’ IT needs will continue to change over time. In IT risk management, the risks that a business faces also change with time.

To keep up with these changes, a business’ risk management strategy and processes need to be revised periodically. For example, a few years ago, ransomware (malicious software that would encrypt all of the data on a target’s network, rendering it unusable) became extremely common. Then, this cyber threat started to decline as more organizations started adopting better remote data backup solutions to increase business resiliency against ransomware.

However, as reported by ZDNet, “Ransomware attacks have been on the rise and getting more dangerous… with Bitdefender’s Mid-Year Threat Landscape Report 2020 claiming a 715% year-on-year increase in detected – and blocked – ransomware attacks.” Because of new variations of ransomware, businesses now need even stronger policies, procedures, and tools for managing ransomware risks.

4. Conducting IT Inventories and Creating an IT Asset Map

IT asset management is a core best practice for minimizing risks, enabling IT cost reductions, and accurately tracking what resources are available. Creating an inventory of IT assets (including hardware, software, and cloud resources) is crucial for enabling effective asset management.

Having an IT asset map can be useful for hardware asset management, enabling end-to-end lifecycle management for critical devices that minimizes costs while maximizing productivity. For example, with a complete map of assets, it is easier to identify potential weak points in the company’s cybersecurity architecture, ensure that all end-of-life assets are being properly sanitized (i.e. all sensitive data is removed) prior to disposal, and that there are no gaps where critical resources are missing.

5. Running Vulnerability Scans and Penetration Tests

Part of an effective IT risk management strategy is actively looking for ways that the company’s IT network might be broken—either on accident or on purpose by a malicious actor. This is typically done by performing vulnerability scans and penetration tests with the help of a managed security service provider (MSSP).

These services can check for vulnerabilities and “stress test” the IT network to find out how different hardware or software assets might “break” under duress. Then, a report can be generated detailing the vulnerabilities and points of failure found. Using this report, organizations can enact fixes to address high-risk issues that could have a significant impact on business operations.

6. Creating an IT Asset Management and Disposition Plan

Data destruction is a sometimes-overlooked aspect of IT asset management that can create significant risks for a business if not done properly. End-of-lifecycle assets like computers, smartphones, and tablets may contain sensitive information on them.

To prevent the risk of data breaches, a hardware asset management strategy should include detailed asset disposition plan. This plan should account for ways to remove data from the devices being retired and verify that removal.

7. Acquiring a Data Backup Solution

Acquiring a remote data backup solution to store important information is a basic IT necessity. With a remote backup of mission-critical data, businesses can more easily recover from major data loss incidents, such as ransomware attacks or accidental data deletions—minimizing their impact on the company’s bottom line.

8. Automating Key Business Processes with ITSM

Streamlining business operations to reduce costs while increasing agility is an important goal for many organizations. IT service management (ITSM) tools can help organizations achieve this goal by automating key business processes.

Automation of key business management processes can help to save time by removing the need for clunky and inconsistent manual data entry and input. This helps ensure more stable service delivery for both internal and external users.

Additionally, automation could help improve visibility for business processes by creating event logs detailing when specific automation events are triggered. This can help improve software asset management by letting IT staff track which pieces of software are being triggered and when.

3 Ways Asset Management Reduces Risk and Builds Business Resilience

A few of the ways that IT asset management (ITAM) can reduce risk and build business resilience include:

1. Reducing Costs

ITAM can be a lynchpin strategy for reducing IT costs in the organization. With the right strategy for both hardware and software asset management, organizations can:

  • Optimize the end-to-end lifecycle of assets to minimize costs while maximizing returns;
  • Eliminate redundant software licenses; and
  • Streamline enterprise software tools to reduce complexity for business processes (saving time and labor).

Finding cost reduction opportunities is a key strategy for building business resilience since it helps free up resources that can be used to cover shortfalls or enable responses to emergency situations.

2. Aligning Teams

When different business units follow different processes and use different software, it can make cross-team collaboration exceedingly difficult. ITAM helps improve the alignment between teams by identifying software programs that can be used across multiple business units to unify practices and processes.

Additionally, knowing which teams have specific resources available to them (from IT asset inventories and maps) can make it easier for teams to collaborate on projects that need those resources.

This can help to improve business resiliency and agility by making collaboration easier and minimizing the risk of miscommunication on critical cross-team projects.

3. Establishing Automated Processes for Improved Efficiency

One of the biggest benefits to ITAM comes when an organization establishes automation for its most important and/or frequently-used business workflows. Leveraging business automation helps businesses save money by reducing the time and labor needed for these processes.

This helps improve a business’ cash flow, enhancing business resiliency by saving liquid assets that can be redirected towards other things.

Additionally, because automated processes reduce the risk of human error, there is less risk of delays from having to fix those errors. This helps to improve business agility and resilience even further since less time is spent on fixing problems and more time can be spent on more value-added tasks.

Are you ready to build business resilience with IT asset management, service management, and operations management (ITOM)? Reach out to the experts at Contender Solutions to get started!

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