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January 3, 2022

5 Steps to Effective Third-Party Onboarding

How do you create an effective third-party onboarding strategy? You need to strike the right balance between internal security and data protection, and the need to empower everyone to get the job done. Add to that the fact we sometimes just need to get the job done and don’t have the time to follow the ideal strategy. So you need to create a plan that’s thorough enough to keep you safe while remaining flexible enough to adjust to circumstances. Here’s some tips from the Certa team to help you find that balance the right way.

Third-Party Onboarding: An Overview

The procedure starts by actually having a third-party onboarding and vetting process- a step many organizations fatally miss. If you’re not already making informed decisions about your vendors and relationship with them, it’s time to get real. Pre-contract leverage is where you have the opportunity to make a difference in vendor security, not when ‘established’ ways are already in place. Closing the barn door when the horse is gone does nothing for your business.

What you need is a simple, effective, and easily repeatable process. Knowing how to uncover and document the key players in your vendor relationship and document the responsibilities they have will help you keep clarity and responsibility clear. Standardizing that as a policy/procedure and ensuring it’s used in your organization is next. Then, adding new members is as easy as following policy, not a calamity people fail to follow.

Step #1 - Assessment

Third-party vendors don’t all possess the same potential threat to your organization. Low-, medium-, and high-risk vendors will need different processes, and there’s no need to subject a low-risk vendor to the intense scrutiny of a high-risk tier. Vendor risk management (VRM) needs to be relevant to the risk they present. So any smart onboarding process needs to start with risk assessment and assigning your new vendor to the right security category.

Business relationships are dynamic and this doesn't need to be set in stone. Bear in mind that ‘corporate inertia’ means that people like to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. So think ahead regarding the full scope of the future relationship and its potential.

Step #2 - Simple, speedy processes

While it’s important to be thorough, it’s as important that the onboarding process is swift- and your offboarding process even swifter. Complex systems are a liability in themselves, and tempt staff members to skip key steps. Plus, if you can’t bring vendors on board efficiently, you will face delays in your day-to-day work, costing you money.

The entire process of third-party risk management (TPRM) needs to efficiently balance speed with protection. Don’t allow your onboarding process to turn into a slow, bloated process that encourages slow adaption and costs your company money and opportunities.

Step #3 - Manage expectations from day 1

Make sure you communicate clearly with your third party about the length of training and the importance of taking it seriously. This helps those facing time-sensitive issues to plan correctly, and speeds up ramp-up time.

This same management of expectations needs to run through your whole organization. If necessary, establish a separate procedure for dealing with TPRM from short-term vendors so they are not ‘in the queue’ behind less time-pressed onboarding. Management, workers, and third parties need to be working on the same page at all times.

Step #4 - Institute secure protocols

By far most of your third-party risk comes in when too many people have the same access rights for no reason. This is why credential sharing, even temporarily, should never be allowed. Every vendor needs their own account, and instituting role-based access control to make sure they have the rights to do their job, but not for issues that don’t concern them. Add efficient credential verification to that, and make sure it can be withdrawn swiftly during offboarding too. The more access, the more scrutiny/security that should be applied.

Step #5 - Focus on good behavior

You want your workers to be empowered to succeed, not hampered by your TPRM. The system should be created to be effective, but simple and practical to use, thus rewarding good behavior instead of encouraging workarounds to get the job done. Any TPRM system is only as good as the users are compliant, so make sure you don’t enact unwieldy, and impossible systems that hamper day-to-day operations.

An Introduction to Certa

Fast, easy onboarding is where you will find effective management of third-party risks. Certa’s unique TPRM software platform delivers all of this in a cost-effective and customizable package that’s as easy to use as it is to implement. Automate your third-party vendor journey to ensure your company can get to work efficiently, without placing your data at risk to security breaches. Let Certa make efficient, transparent TPRM work for you today.

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