How Enterprise Infosec Teams Can Avoid Security Questionnaire Bottlenecks

The Loopio Team

If you’re an information security professional, there’s probably one request you dread getting: “Hey can you help me with this Security Questionnaire?”

In the wake of GDPR and big data breaches, buyers are demanding more security information during the sales cycle—usually in the form of Security Questionnaires. And, as a result, your security team is likely getting more and more requests to answer these lengthy documents.

However, Security Questionnaires create challenges for time-strapped security teams because:

  • They’re repetitive—you keep answering the same questions over and over again, which isn’t productive.
  • They pull focus from keeping your company and customers secure—which is really your top priority.
  • You can end up being a bottleneck in the sales process—which won’t win you any favours with revenue teams.

The problem gets even worse for enterprise-sized organizations, where product lines can be varied and complex, and sales teams are often dispersed across countries or regions (all of which may have different security standards, languages, etc.).

The key to improving this process lies in streamlining how you curate, maintain, and deploy your security information. And one of the best ways to do that is by adopting response management software.

These tools allow you to build and control a library of approved Security Questionnaire responses that sales can access. Plus, they help you better manage answering questionnaires by giving your team a collaborative workspace to track progress, request approvals, and more.

In this blog, we’ll cover what to consider when assessing a Security Questionnaire response tool, the top features to look for, and implementation advice.

Should You Adopt Security Questionnaire Software?

When responding to security questionnaires, is your organization is facing one or more of the challenges listed below? If so, then adopting a Security Questionnaire solution is likely a smart choice:

  • Geographically dispersed sales and/or information security (infosec) teams that work with different standards, product lines, etc.
  • Slower deal velocity due to the infosec team processing a high volume of questionnaire requests
  • Infosec content is spread across many different locations—there is no central repository or wiki to search through
  • Content gets out-of-date or inaccurate quickly and/or it’s hard to discern when content was last reviewed for accuracy
  • No easy way or established process for proactively reviewing and updating security content
  • Security Questionnaires vary in size and format, and responses lack consistency from a brand and tone perspective
  • Questionnaires often contain similar or repeat requests that have been answered before
  • Questionnaires are distracting the infosec team from completing other important projects due to bandwidth issues
  • A lack of infosec oversight leads to low quality responses and/or lost business

Top Considerations For Selecting a Security Questionnaire Response Tool

Right now, you may be storing security content on a collaborative content management system like Sharepoint, Google Drive, or another enterprise wiki-style platform or proprietary database. You might even be managing the Security Questionnaire response process in Excel documents, or tracking them with a ticketing or project management tool.

There are few problems with these approaches:

  • People need to search individual documents to find answers—meaning your response content has to be very well organized and clear so users can select the best possible response
  • Content has to be manually extracted and copied into your Security Questionnaire responses over and over again
  • It’s difficult to maintain content accuracy since there are few effective workflows for keeping content consistently updated by the appropriate team members
  • It’s hard to know what content is being used the most, or track how many questionnaires your team is handling

Response software, is designed to help streamline both how you manage your security content and the actual process of responding to Security Questionnaires (as well as similar sales documents that require security input, such as RFPs, Due Diligence Questionnaires, etc.).

Here are the key features to look for under each of those umbrellas:

Top Content Library Management Features

  • A customizable library structure. Being able to store and organize your security knowledge using custom categorization tools in a central, searchable location allows teams to quickly find the right content.
  • User-based roles and permissions. This ensures content is only being edited or altered by those who should have that level of access. It can also help to make sure that users in different regions see only content that’s relevant to them.
  • Automated review cycles and reminders. Creating a pre-scheduled review cycle that automatically notifies your team when it’s time to update or add new content will keep your security information accurate. This feature is especially useful for content that needs to be regularly evaluated for relevance and/or regulatory compliance.
  • A content feedback loop. Look for automated workflows that let you capture and feed new or updated security responses back into your library when new questionnaires are approved and submitted. This is the most effective way to ensure your content is always up-to-date. Plus, it saves your team time so they don’t have to manually update your content.

Top Project Management Features

  • Intelligent questionnaire import. The ability to automatically bring questionnaires into a single workspace or platform will let you kick off projects faster by eliminating the need to copy and paste questions. It will also prevent version control issues since all users will work in the same project (vs. emailing documents back and forth).
  • Automated response fill-in. Automatic question detection and auto-populating answers features eliminate the need for your security team to repeatedly copy-and-paste or search for answers to questions they’ve been asked before—which will saves them time during the response process.
  • Project tracking. Centralizing the response process in a single environment makes for more effective project management. Being able to easily track project progress, assign responsibilities, leave comments, notify team members when you need help and set deadlines will keep everyone on the same page, create more visibility for your entire team, and reduce confusion or bottlenecks.
  • Branded templates. Being able to export answers from your library into customized, branded Security Whitepapers that you proactively send to prospects can help you speed up the sales cycle. (It might even help you avoid having to do a questionnaire altogether.)
  • Reporting. Being able to see which content your team is using the most will let you know where you should concentrate your security content upkeep efforts and provide insights into how you can optimize your process overall.
  • Smart integrations. A platform that integrates with the key business applications you’re already using in your day-to-day will make responding to and tracking Security Questionnaires that much faster and more effective for your teams—whether it’s a team collaboration tool like Slack, customer relationship management software like Salesforce, or a web browser like Google Chrome.

GRC Software vs. a Response Management Solution

If your enterprise is considering—or already using—a Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) platform, you may wonder if that can be used to streamline the questionnaire response process.

GRC software is designed to improve compliance and risk management. And some allow you to respond to security review requests. But GRC tools don’t often enable or improve the actual questionnaire response process.

Here’s a quick comparison of the key differences:

Content Management

  • GRC software: Serves as a system of record for lengthy security and compliance-related documentation; used to create static security profiles to share security posture in response to security audits from regulatory bodies/authorities and vendor security review requests; can have audit trails so changes to security content can be tracked.  
  • Response Software: Allows you to create and control a structured, searchable content library where content is stored in question and answer pairs that are easy to find and use; user permissions, freshness scores, and automated content reviews prevents out-of-date information from being used.

Automation 

  • GRC Software: Automates processes for risk assessment, user provisioning, role management, emergency access management, compliance management, and enforcing infosec policies.
  • Response Software: Automates processes for importing Security Questionnaires, detecting questions and auto-populating appropriate answers; exports responses into original file formats or branded template for sales team; automatically updates library with new content based on completed responses; flags potentially outdated comments and allows for content review scheduling and notifications.

Project Management & Collaboration 

  • GRC Software: Offers collaboration features to track security program progress, review security opportunities, communicate with stakeholders, and other security tasks.
  • Response Software: Offers a collaborative workspace for building a response library, creating Security Questionnaire responses, tracking response progress, assigning questions to appropriate individuals, and notifying users when a review or approval is needed.

A questionnaire response solution can better handle storing and deploying your security content  to answer questionnaires more effectively than GRC software.

How to Implement Security Response Software Effectively

If you have a ton of security content and little bandwidth available, you might feel like implementing response automation software will take more time and effort than it’s worth. But if you have the right tools and expertise, the implementation process can be fast and efficient.

A quick way to get started is by mining content from your most recent two to three Security Questionnaire responses—focusing on the products that receive the most questionnaires and the most common, repetitive questions you receive. This way, you’ll build a security content library that’s accurate and can work for your teams right away.

If your team is too time-strapped to do that legwork, look for a vendor that offers migration services. Having a partner that can identify what content you need to migrate over to your library can significantly speed up the setup process.

To ensure a smooth roll-out, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Your infosec and sales teams must work together to improve the Security Questionnaire response process. Make sure that leaders on both teams are aligned around the goals for using a new process and tool. Consider creating a process map to establish clarity around who owns each step.
  • Talk to end users on both teams to find out how they’d like to be trained and what they would like to learn. Then, create training materials that are customized to their needs. Work within existing training frameworks—such as sales enablement and/or learning systems—to deliver training effectively, and consider creating reusable resources, like videos or best practice guides, so future users can be onboarded smoothly.
  • Ask influencers on the sales team to encourage other sales reps to start using the new platform. Also, tap into these early adopters for feedback so you can improve any process or training gaps early on.
  • Set yourself up for ongoing success by establishing timelines for reviewing response content. Also, set key milestone dates for reviewing the results of your new process, such as the time it takes to complete questionnaires, how many were submitted, how many questions were answered with automation, sentiment scores from users, etc.

Read our Enterprise Guide for Migrating Response Management for more tips on getting your enterprise up-and-running with a response platform in 30 days or less.

Request a demo to see how Loopio eases the pain of responding to Security Questionnaires.

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