New Report: The GRC Platform Market Is Taking Big Steps Toward Clarity But Still Has A Long Way To Go

I'm proud to say that we published my report "Market Overview: GRC Platforms" earlier today.

It will come as little surprise to most of you that the overall GRC market is still saturated with relatively small vendors, many of which continue to struggle to maintain their market niches. At the same time, a handful of market leaders (notably BWise, IBM/OpenPages, MetricStream, RSA/Archer, and Thomson Reuters/Paisley) continue to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, while several large competitors (including Oracle, SAP, SAS, Software AG, and Wolters Kluwer) put more and more pressure on the market all the time.

It's been interesting to watch these vendors that competed head-to-head regularly for SOX compliance deals now drifting further apart . . . some focusing more on risk management and analytics, some strengthening their compliance and content offerings, some building deeper integration with IT systems, and others building bridges into audit departments. The current environment of increased government oversight and regulation — and in some cases, reform of whole industries — worldwide promises to bring a strong resurgence to the GRC platform market overall, which means increased competition both from veteran vendors and newcomers alike.

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IBM Announces Plans To Acquire OpenPages . . . Top GRC Vendors Are Charting Very Different Courses

Rarely does vendor consolidation reflect such fragmentation of a market.

Picking up on the recent acquisition trend of independent market leaders, IBM today announced plans to acquire long-time GRC heavyweight OpenPages to strengthen its business analytics offerings, including Cognos and SPSS. It's a good fit for both companies and certainly won't surprise anyone who has been following the space... the OpenPages platform leans on Cognos for its reporting capabilities, so they already have a head start on product integration. The two have also proven successful in the past by combining forces on large risk management implementations, so there are already established use cases to reference.

This deal is most interesting, however, when you consider the other acquisitions of top GRC vendors. Less than two years ago, Paisley was acquired by Thomson Reuters to strengthen its tax and accounting business and content delivery, while EMC acquired Archer Technologies earlier this year as a dashboard (at least initially) to pull together IT risk data and processes as part of its RSA security offerings. While OpenPages has historically competed with Paisley in financial controls management and has recently been moving more into Archer's core IT risk and compliance domain, this acquisition will likely turn the company more toward higher-level corporate performance and enterprise risk management. The GRC vendors will still compete regularly, but their unique selling propositions are starting to look more and more unique all the time.

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Think You Know About All The Big US Government Regulations Coming Up? All 191 Of Them?

There has been an interesting PR battle in Washington over the last few weeks about the number of massive regulations still on the administration's agenda. House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote a memo to President Obama citing a list of 191 proposed rules expected to have a more than $100 million impact on the economy (each!) and asking for clarification on the number of these pending rules that would surpass the $1 billion mark. The acting head of the Office of Management and Budget responded, saying that the number of "economically significant bills" passed last year actually represented a downward trend, and the current number on the agenda is more like 13.

For those of you wanting a little more clarification, you can search through the OMB's Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan by economic significance, key terms, entities affected, and other criteria. Making sense of all of these proposed rules will take time, but it will help you get an idea of issues that your organization may have to face in the near future.

Coincidentally, my latest report, The Regulatory Intelligence Battlefield Heats Up, went live yesterday. In this paper, I offer an overview of different available resources to keep up with new and changing regulations as well as relevant legal guidance.

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The Forrester Information Security Maturity Model

After an in-depth survey of IT security and risk professionals, as well as our ongoing work with leaders in this field, Forrester recognized the need for a detailed, practical way to measure the maturity of security organizations. You asked, and we responded. I'm happy to announce today we published the Forrester Information Security Maturity Model, detailing 123 components that comprise a successful security organization, grouped in 25 functions, and 4 high level domains. In addition to the People, Process, and Technology functions you may be familiar with, we added Oversight, a domain that addresses the strategy and decision making needed to coordinate functions in the other three domains.

Our Maturity Model report explains the research and methodology behind this new framework, which is designed to help security and risk professionals articulate the breadth of security’s role in the organization, identify and fix gaps in their programs, and demonstrate improvement over time.

What makes the Forrester Information Security Maturity Model work?

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Tips For Using Spreadsheets For Business Intelligence, Compliance, And Risk Management

My colleague Boris Evelson, who covers business intelligence for Forrester and serves business process professionals, recently wrote a great post about the use of spreadsheets for business intelligence. He explains that while many BI vendors initially sought to replace spreadsheets in the corporate environment, it's now clear that they are not going anywhere any time soon.

Sound familiar? While many governance, risk, and compliance professionals and GRC vendors continue to work toward helping customers consolidate data and move away from spreadsheets, they are still basically ubiquitous. In fact, several of the top GRC vendors are now working to improve the way their tools interface with Excel... Not just for exporting reports, but for data input and analysis as well.

I recommend reading Boris' post, where he details three best practices regarding the use of spreadsheets for BI:

  1. Create spreadsheet governance policies.
  2. Monitor and enforce compliance with those policies.
  3. Give preference to vendors that work well with spreadsheets.

Creating clear policies for what information will and will not be managed on spreadsheets is critical here, and extremely important for the GRC universe. Unless you have specially-built controls, spreadsheets do not give you the level of security, access control, change control, or audit trail you should have for data related to compliance or risk management. Knowing Office tools are going to be handling substantial amounts of important information for the foreseeable future, so it's worthwhile to review and update your policies and make sure they are being appropriately enforced.

The Supreme Court Ruling Will Have Little Impact On SOX . . . Sorry

Despite some speculation that today's Supreme Court ruling might overturn large portions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (if not all of it), the final opinion will likely have no significant impact on financial controls, auditing, or reporting requirements.

The Court found that the method by which Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) members are appointed does not grant the Executive branch sufficient oversight because of the restrictions on when members can be removed from their position. According to Chief Justice Roberts' opinion, "The consequence is that the Board may continue as before, but its members may be removed at will by the (Securities and Exchange) Commission." And for those arguing that SOX doesn't have a severability clause that maintains the act's legality even when a portion of it is overruled, Roberts clarifies that "the unconstitutional tenure provisions are severable from the remainder of the statute."

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Risk Professionals' Window Of Opportunity

In my ongoing work with risk management professionals, I've been encouraged to see how quickly the role is growing in influence and responsibility in today's business environment (even though the drivers for that elevation are often disastrous). Along those lines, I read a great article this morning in StrategicRISK, discussing the window of opportunity for risk experts, aptly entitled Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.

The article quotes the Institute of Risk Management's deputy chairman, Alex Hindson, who says that top executives and boards of directors are looking for risk management guidance, and if risk experts in their organizations can't step up to fill that role in their "window of opportunity," it will be filled instead by auditors, finance professionals, or external consultants.

In my recent engagements with Forrester's clients in risk management, I've certainly seen a lot of interest and participation from other functions in the business - most notably audit and IT. And just last week, my colleague Craig Symons published a report explaining key issues in risk management for the CIO.

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Enterprise Risk Management For IT Security

A few weeks ago, Stephanie Balaouras and I posted a podcast on a topic that has been a high priority for many of our customers — how to apply risk management techniques to IT security. We know that many of you are feeling the pressure to take the lead in IT risk management and in some cases even play a role in initiating risk management at the corporate level.

The key to success is understanding the core elements of risk management and how to plug them into existing processes without creating simply another layer of overhead. A major theme of my recent research has been on existing risk management standards and how they are being applied to IT Security and Risk functions. For example, the ISO 31000 risk management standard outlines a five-step process for formalized risk management. My January report, Introducing ERM To IT Security And Risk , provides a summary of the standard, and I will be expanding upon the next steps in my upcoming research documents. In addition, look out for my next doc on Regulatory Intelligence, to be published in the next few months.

In the meantime, I encourage you to listen to this podcast to hear about best practices and lessons learned from clients who have gone through these steps. And as always, I welcome any questions or feedback.

Crisis Communication, Business Continuity, And Risk Management

I recently recorded a podcast with Stephanie Balaouras, discussing the potential for increased collaboration between crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management functions. The strategies that businesses implement to manage disasters can mean the difference between bankruptcy and resilience... and we unfortunately see reminders of this on an almost weekly basis.

As each disaster hits the news (BP’s oil spill in the Gulf Coast, the recent volcanic eruption over Iceland, the financial crisis, the H1N1 virus, the extreme weather that crippled Washington, DC this past winter, etc.), the overwhelmingly negative impacts that occur start to hit home. Fortunately, we are starting to see our clients turning more to their crisis communication, business continuity, and risk management teams to ensure that they are prepared for the worst.

There are many potential points of collaboration between these teams. . . from modeling critical business processes and assessing the business impact of incidents to executing effective remediation plans and conducting post-incident loss analysis. Recently, I’ve also seen companies that talk about starting from scratch with a risk management function, although they have already done a substantial amount of relevant work for their business continuity function.

Of course, while there are some good trends that point to increased cooperation, there are still many areas for further improvement for every company. In fact, our data shows it to be the rare case in which both internal and external crisis communication functions are handled well in the same plan, with one usually being much stronger and more of a focal point.

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Financial Reform And GRC

I was able to catch pieces of live testimony in front of the House Financial Services Committee yesterday on the Lehman Brothers collapse (covered via live blog by the Wall Street Journal). It was interesting to watch former Lehman head Richard Fuld reluctantly attempt to explain to an understandably skeptical audience, “We were risk averse,” in the period leading up to the company’s collapse.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is back in the spotlight after the SEC leveled charges of fraud against the company last week related to alleged misstatements and omissions in the marketing of specific financial products. While this seems like a relatively small initial shot at the large financial firms, the SEC appears to be reasserting its authority after a series of embarrassing stories have come out about failures of oversight including Madoff, Stanford, and now Lehman.

So what does all this mean for governance, risk, and compliance professionals?

It’s hard to tell what might come of the fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, but if anything, this appears to build a case for more rigorous compliance policies and manual oversight. It’s hard to see how automated controls could have helped here, but the case could involve substantial e-discovery to determine how certain marketing decisions were made.

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