With the surge of people working from home, costly data breaches, phishing, and ransomware threats are on the rise. In fact, 61% of companies reported a 25% or greater increase in cyberthreats since the beginning of the pandemic, while 68% of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.
As businesses continue to digitize their processes—including the transfer, storage, and processing of important and sensitive data and communications—and grapple with the challenge of securing both legacy and cloud systems, InfoSec and security questionnaires have taken on increased importance within companies' risk management strategies.
Indeed, security questionnaires are one of the most valuable tools organizations have for evaluating potential vendors and assessing risk. But given the complexity, length, and volume of these documents, security questionnaire automation has become increasingly important for proposal teams struggling to keep pace with vendor requests.
What is a security questionnaire?
A security questionnaire (also called a vendor risk assessment questionnaire or IT risk assessment questionnaire) is a tool that an organization circulates to a prospective software vendor or service provider to evaluate and validate their security practices before choosing to do business with that organization.
The majority of the questionnaires designed by a company’s Security and Compliance team are usually between 100 and 150 questions in length, but some questionnaires can exceed 400 questions. Without security questionnaire automation, this manual process typically takes more than 20 hours to complete.
Security questionnaires are designed around five trust principles:
Security: Organizations want to ensure information and systems are protected against unauthorized access, unauthorized disclosure of information, and damage to systems that could compromise the availability, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of information.
Availability: Companies evaluate controls to ensure information and systems are available for operation and use to meet their objectives. They want to measure whether systems include controls to support accessibility for operation, monitoring, and maintenance.
Processing integrity: Addresses whether systems achieve the aim or purpose for which they exist and whether they perform their intended functions in an unimpaired manner, free from error, delay, omission, and unauthorized or inadvertent manipulation.
Confidentiality: Addresses the ability to protect information designated as confidential from its collection or creation through its final disposition and removal from the entity’s control. It’s important to note that confidentiality is not the same as privacy. Privacy applies only to personal information, whereas confidentiality applies to various types of sensitive information.
Privacy: Companies deciding whether to do business with a potential vendor use the security questionnaire to evaluate controls about the collection, usage, retention, disclosure, and disposal of personal information.
A security questionnaire is used by prospects and potential clients to collect the information about your organization that they need to feel secure in doing business with you; it is your opportunity to demonstrate, clearly and concisely, the foundational role InfoSec plays within your company’s digital ecosystem.
Why is security questionnaire automation important?
Automating the security questionnaire response process is a game-changer for your proposal team—and your bottom line. Here are just a few of the advantages of security questionnaire automation:
- Time saved and money saved (from proposal team labor): Your pre-approved content will be directly fed into the questionnaire. As your content library grows, the security questionnaire automation process becomes smarter and faster, saving your team time and money.
- Stay ahead of your competition (turn in your security questionnaire before everyone else): Leverage the software integrations available to facilitate sharing your questionnaire, accessing them from anywhere, assigning tasks and monitoring deadlines, directly from your CRM.
- Win more deals: Security questionnaire automation not only accelerates and simplifies the response process, but transforms the process into a valuable feature of your sales and RFP process. When properly done, the process can foster trust and loyalty amongst prospective and existing customers and partners—which, ultimately, leads to winning more business.
Security questionnaire best practices
Like any other tool or process around compliance, the security questionnaire response process can either become a weakness or a strength for an organization. Leveraging security questionnaire automation to save time and effort, while focusing on the following best practices will help you achieve the latter:
- Appreciate the need for vendor risk management: Customers and business partners want peace of mind that you can be trusted with their data. You must go beyond simply answering a set of questions: make an effort to listen to stakeholders and ensure you interpret each question accurately so that you can get behind what is truly being asked.
Support your responses with quality documentation and offer to engage in Q&A sessions to clarify uncertainties and answer questions. If you do this, the entire exercise will be more valuable, accurate, and rewarding for all parties.
- Identify the ‘Value Add’ for your organization: With the right approach, different business areas within your organization can benefit immensely from collaborating on security questionnaires.
Aggregate data from multiple questionnaires and use the most common topics as a yardstick to measure your own organization’s security posture across divisions (HR, Engineering, IT Operations, etc.). This exercise is incredibly valuable in terms of aligning and improving your organization’s security and resilience.
- Show customers you’re serious about compliance: With the exponential increase in cybersecurity threats, conducting vendor risk assessments has become an essential step in the sales process. Responding to security questionnaires is not an activity that should be a minor responsibility of the IT department or Engineering team. SaaS companies should establish a dedicated security team and implement and maintain a proper compliance program.
- Maintain continuous compliance: Use a well-designed security program to maintain your organization’s controls, policies, and procedures. Automate as many of the compliance elements as possible to lessen the workload. Ensure that policies and procedures are reviewed frequently and that internal control audits (checking the effectiveness of controls) are done on a set schedule to ensure continuous compliance.
- Work smarter, not harder: Most of the time, security questionnaires cannot be completed without the need to collaborate across departments. It is critical to streamline collaboration and improve efficiency on complex questionnaires.
- Collaborate in your everyday applications: Simplify collaboration across the organization by using tools and applications that contributors are familiar with, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.
- Build a Knowledge Library of high-quality reusable resources: Capture questions and answers into a knowledge base for reuse. Maintain a repository of high-quality, accurate, and up-to-date supporting documentation.
- Automate the process: Make life easier by taking advantage of a security questionnaire automation solution. For example, a tool like QorusDocs offers an Auto Answer feature that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to tailor content recommendations; the intelligent response engine answers questionnaires based on data captured from your knowledge base.
Security questionnaire automation helps increase efficiency in your due diligence process, reducing manual intervention and related costs. Automating the response process helps businesses provide accurate answers in a fraction of the time and streamline risk management, enabling them to focus on revenue-generating activities and high-value processes.
How to select a security questionnaire automation platform
A few of the key features to look for when selecting a security questionnaire automation platform include:
Auto-answer: Simplifies the answering process for security questionnaires by providing tailored and compliant AI-driven content recommendations to insert into questionnaires, boosting team efficiency and productivity.
Better collaboration: The capacity to collaborate in everyday applications that your teams are already using; assigning tasks across teams to increase productivity.
Progress monitoring: The power of AI also means gaining instant questionnaire insight from built-in reporting, fostering smarter follow-up conversations with prospects.
Your business partner relationships are based on trust. Your security questionnaire automation platform should streamline and simplify your response process, while helping you give potential buyers peace of mind that their data is safe—a key factor in promoting your organization’s competitive advantage and driving future success.
Finals thoughts on security questionnaire automation
As companies grapple with the new reality of remote work and increased cybersecurity threats, vendor risk management has become a critical strategy for evaluating and validating suppliers' security practices. Security questionnaires are a valuable tool to help organizations assess risk and decide whether they feel confident doing business with potential vendors.
For software and service vendors, security questionnaire automation has eliminated the time-consuming manual effort of responding to the high volumes of complex security questionnaires. As a result, vendors are able to focus more on improving security processes that demonstrate their commitment to security and compliance best practices, while accelerating the deal cycle to drive revenue generation.
At QorusDocs, we’re committed to helping you simplify and expedite your security questionnaire response process through streamlined collaboration in everyday apps, AI-powered content, and instant questionnaire insights.
To learn more about how to use security questionnaire automation to complete complex questionnaires 5x faster, check out our Everything-you've-ever-wanted-to-know-and-more Guide to Security Questionnaires.