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Over the last year, IT risk managers have begun creating risk dashboards. Not only do these dashboards provide an overview of enterprise IT risk, they should (in theory) enable conversations around what actions need to be taken in the name of security, as well as requests for resources or increased budgets.

They should also enable buy-in from other executives – agreement in the risk levels the company can accept, must mitigate, can transfer, and should avoid. Done correctly, this dashboard makes the decisions about IT risk management accessible to all executive team members (no matter their level of technical expertise), and communicates that IT risk management is exactly that – management of risk, not elimination of risk.

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But how do you create a risk dashboard that empowers you to communicate an accurate picture of your IT security health in a way that resonates with the business leaders in your organization?

Unfortunately, building your own risk dashboard from the raw data can be difficult: You need to pull together data from a wide range of activity logs (key risk indicators), analyze it and build a risk model that gives a clear and comprehensive overview of risk in your organization. Even if you manage to create a good dashboard, other executives in the business may suspect that you have presented the data in a way that reflects favorably on your own performance.

On the other hand, when you use an outside standard as the basis for your dashboard, you can ensure that it has the credibility required for effective communication.

Report on Consistent Metrics

When you create your risk dashboard, try to avoid focusing too much on the latest threats or the hottest trends in IT security. If you focus too much on what is current, you run the risk of your dashboard becoming obsolete in a few months (or less).

You could adapt the dashboards you use as time progresses, in order to reflect the ever-changing cyber security landscape, but this can make them much less useful as tools for communicating with executives who do not have time to keep abreast of the latest trends in cyber security. CEOs and other business leaders want dashboards that allow them to measure security performance over time, so your dashboard should display consistent metrics that tell that evolving story of your IT security health.

Avoid Making Your Dashboard Too Technical

Remember that a risk dashboard is a tool that facilitates communication between people working in risk management and other parts of the organization. Therefore, you need to ensure that your dashboard can be understood by a nontechnical audience. Even though the data that goes into creating your dashboard is likely to be highly technical, you need to avoid inserting too many technical details into the final product.

Instead, frame the data and analysis of that data in a business context that is in line with overall organization objectives – these are what your executives care about the most. If possible, try to include an indication of the dollar value of the risks facing your organization. When you begin to put figures on the costs and benefits of risk management, you can help business leaders understand the value of this vital part of IT.

Final Thought

Many risk managers are still experimenting with different ways of communicating data in a dashboard format, since the concept is still somewhat in its infancy. To stay ahead of the curve, focus on creating dashboards that present metrics in a business-focused context, so that people who are not security experts can use them to learn more about risk in your organization.

By taking the time to design a clear and relevant dashboard now, you can continue using the same dashboard for many years to come, improving the consistency of your reporting.

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About FourV Systems
FourV is dedicating to improving the operational performance of IT security programs by empowering leadership to make decisions instead of spending time analyzing data.
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