Don’t Treat Third-Party Risk Management as Check-the-Box Compliance

3 minute read

December 2022

Beyond Basic Compliance: Achieving True Resilience Requires Third-Party Risk and Cybersecurity Alignment

Between SOC audits, ISO standards, OSHA, HIPAA, GDPR, and a slate of recently passed bills, the modern business is painstakingly regulated. Add to that local and state laws, the complexities of multinational operations, and the necessity of managing a geographically diverse workforce, and it’s no wonder that many organizations choose to stop at compliance that’s “good enough.” 

Still, while check-box compliance may get your third-party risk management (TPRM) program through the next audit, it’s a short-term solution that makes enduring resilience unlikely. For that reason, it’s imperative that your TPRM program aligns its practices with other key domains—namely, cybersecurity—to close gaps in your defenses and establish a durable risk posture. 

How is Check-the-Box Compliance Different from True TPRM? 

Tick-box compliance means doing the bare minimum while still meeting the requirements of a regulatory audit. Regulatory guidelines are meant to ensure organizations meet a minimum proficiency in key areas, not to serve as an organizational principle for TPRM practices. Where a strong TPRM program achieves compliance by building a resilient risk-management architecture, tick-box compliance treats risk like a game of whack-a-mole: it meets new requirements when they arise and never considers a problem until it’s impacted the bottom line. 

As an organization expands its third-party ecosystem, tick-box compliance leads to limited visibility between domains, like TPRM and cyber risk, that could be handled more strategically in tandem. When third-party risk professionals don’t evaluate vendors against the organization’s cybersecurity controls and cybersecurity lacks insight into the vendor ecosystem, hackers have more than enough runway to do serious damage before getting caught. 

When performing due diligence, it’s imperative that you evaluate each vendor’s inherent risk and the aggregate risk of your vendor population, but also that these calculations are aligned with the organization’s internal cybersecurity practices. It is only by relating internal and external controls that you can achieve operational resilience. 

How to Gain Better Visibility in Third-Party Risk and Cybersecurity  

Disparate compliance efforts hinder resilience by producing business units that don’t speak the same language as each other. Your organization can develop a shared security vocabulary by integrating external and internal risk practices. When each external control relates back to an internal policy, your organization’s cybersecurity priorities become a standard for third-party risk management to easily understand and enforce. Relating your controls in this way grants your cybersecurity team insight into your vendor ecosystem, ensuring that your vendor evaluations are grounded in the practices currently employed within your organization. That way, your TPRM team can keep an eye on the areas where your organization is most internally vulnerable, while your cybersecurity team can catch potential issues before they impact your organization.  

From Compliance to Resilience 

Compliance is necessary to protect your organization from regulatory risks, including steep fines, penalties and even high-profile lawsuits. Still, as we demonstrated above, compliance is not sufficient to protect your organization: for that, you need alignment between third-party risk and cybersecurity. 

When security efforts are aligned across the organization, everyone has the tools they need to identify relevant issues and to mitigate them efficiently. Teams can skip time-consuming attempts to reach common ground and spend their time resolving the issues that affect the organization. Surpassing compliance and achieving resilience means that cybersecurity will never be blindsided by something that would have been obvious to TPRM if they knew what to look for. 

ProcessUnity solutions unify risk reduction efforts between third-party risk and cybersecurity. Our platform provides configurable, flexible, and intuitive solutions for the Chief Information Security Officer and the Chief Procurement Officer. Contact us to request a demo and see how we can help your organization create a holistic risk management strategy. 

Related Articles

About Us

ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit