Implementing an Integrated Risk Management Program

December 27, 2023

With remote and hybrid work models on the rise, many companies have tapped into powerful digital transformation initiatives to boost how they work and become more resilient in today’s evolving business landscape. 

A distributed workforce carries a greater volume of risks such as compliance hiccups, data losses, a lack of training and security awareness, and more. To gain a better grasp of significant risks surrounding your business, it is vital to invest in integrated risk management (IRM) strategies. 

IRM opens up a comprehensive, near real-time window to threats your business may be facing. The data extracted from these IRM initiatives can then be translated into important policies that can help your business sail smoothly despite the ocean of risks it may be exposed to. 

First Things First: What Is Integrated Risk Management? 

Integrated risk management (IRM) is a security initiative that helps organizations implement a unified platform, which can then unlock a single (and comprehensive) window to view risks across:

  • Compliance 
  • Internal controls 
  • Internal audits 
  • Risk management 

The concept of IRM was first created in 2017 by research firm Gartner. According to Gartner, IRM is “a set of practices and processes supported by a risk-aware culture and enabling technologies.” Establishing your IRM program can supply you with technology integration and automation to gain organization-wide visibility into all your governance processes. 

What Makes IRM Vital for Businesses? 

Technology is changing faster than we can blink our eyes. This brings newer and more dangerous risks associated with cybersecurity and digital technology. IRM enables your business to stay ahead of this challenge. 

With new risks come new regulatory requirements. This requires businesses to establish separate security and risk management teams to ensure goals are met safely. IRM replaces siloed teams (that have little understanding of navigating risks) with new governance and risk management capabilities to ensure absolute oversight of risks of all types. 

The Benefits 

Let’s explore the benefits of IRM to fully recognize why it plays a critical role in your business’s risk management strategy. 

Cost Savings 

IRM offers deeper insights into a business’s multiple risk factors and operational controls. Teams that understand the many risks impacting different business areas are better equipped to put resilient mitigation controls in place. 

When redundancies are spotted and erased faster, businesses stand to reduce a variety of costs. IRM also supplies businesses with the opportunity to revisit and monitor business processes constantly, so risks get mitigated before translating into heavy financial losses.

Improved Data

Data is king. It unlocks comprehensive insights to help us navigate threats before they become a reality. 

Compliance risk assessments form the core of IRM. Therefore, the data extracted from IRM is always current, reliable, and readily available whenever business leads want to look into their company’s regulatory compliance position. This data is also neatly aggregated in a unified dashboard to enable faster and more productive decision-making.

Being Prepared for Disasters + Building Resilience

No business is immune to threats. But what happens when an organization fails to foresee them? 

IRM initiatives help organizations of all shapes and sizes thoroughly prepare for edge-case extremes. This can help your business bounce back should a major disaster afflict it down the line. How? Through IRM, you can anticipate risk events and craft comprehensive plans to keep your organization afloat no matter how severe the storm gets. 

Improving Organizational Culture

Your business’s IRM initiatives encourage an organization-wide and interdepartmental approach to identifying and managing risk. As a result, your culture becomes proactive to risk awareness. A risk-aware culture naturally contributes to heightened transparency and productivity across all departments. 

Things To Consider When Implementing an Integrated Risk Management Program 

Planning to implement an IRM program? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Align Your Strategies with Your Goals 

When implementing an IRM program, a great way to ensure business unit alignment and secure the support of senior leaders is to align strategies with goals. Demonstrate how quality risk management is inextricably linked with better business outcomes. When your IRM initiatives hint toward improved financial goals, it becomes easier to get buy-ins from senior management and team members. 

Secure Leadership and Team Support 

IRM shouldn’t just be a new initiative you’re implementing – it should come with a total cultural shift. Everyone within your organization must understand and acknowledge the importance of your IRM efforts. To ensure organization-wide accountability, it’s critical to promote ongoing risk management efforts and emphasize how the process must be a shared responsibility across IT compliance teams and team leads from different departments. 

Risk Management Must Not Take a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Every organization has unique needs and faces unique risks. When implementing your IRM program, factor in things that are unique to your organization instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Study your assets, identify your business’s Achilles heel, explore the types of risks your business was exposed to in the past, and understand the types of threats you may come across on the journey toward achieving your business goals. 

Know Your Risk Awareness and Risk Appetite 

For your IRM strategies to succeed, it’s important to first recognize your organization’s risk awareness and appetite clearly. Identify your business’s risk issues, and clarify its strategy and overall appetite for business risks. Once this data is documented, your team can determine the type of IRM initiatives your organization must focus on.

Factor In the Risks Associated with Third-Party Providers

Risks can seep into your business from anywhere. An important area to focus on when implementing your IRM program is to understand the threats you may face when teaming up with third parties, like vendors, contractors, or even customers. A thorough process of screening third parties on a regular basis can help ease this risk. 

Grow Your IRM Strategy Constantly

Your organization’s IRM strategy is not a once-and-done task. From political risks across the world to threats related to new technology – risks will always make an appearance. With new risks, regulations around technology will also increase. To ensure your organization continues to stay afloat – regardless of threats or changes in regulations – your risk management programs must evolve with the overall industry and business landscape. 

Over to You! 

Prevention is better than cure. By helping businesses gain a “single view of risk,” your IRM program can create a proactive, risk-aware culture so your teams can focus on growing your organization while putting their best compliance foot forward.