What’s your supply chain security program level?

September 18, 2019
Harris Allgeier

Businesses love a good process assessment. You can’t shake a proverbial stick without hitting an ISO, CMMI, or Six Sigma seal. There’s a good reason for this, too: common standards provide an easy way to verify an organization’s efficiency, maturity, and long-term stability. Of course, there are no guarantees but standardization is probably helpful. For example, a study of the defense contracting industry found that organizations with a high maturity level spend about half as much time on software defect testing as their less-mature competitors.

A recent SANS whitepaper co-sponsored by Interos articulates the various stages of maturity for a supply chain security program. Organizations that can progress to the most advanced stages of this model are primed to respond effectively to supplier disruption, and more broadly, are likely to have a comprehensive operational resilience strategy

The 6 Supply Chain Security Program Stages

The levels or patterns articulated below reflect the various possible stages of a company’s supply chain security program, and postulate where it might go next.

Stage 1 – Greenfield: The organization lacks concrete processes and policies for supply chain management and has little-to-no overarching strategy. Organizations have policy mandates for supply chain security processes but lack any actual implementation. This includes organizations with formalized supply chain management practices and operational resilience strategies that fail to incorporate security leadership,

Stage 2 – Reactive: The organization has not integrated its security group into supply chain or procurement processes, but it routinely catches third-party vulnerabilities through standard security activities like vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, etc.

Stage 3 – Evaluation Participant: Most organizations acknowledge that granting third-party organizations direct access to their IT systems and networks is a massive security risk. An organization in this development stage has incorporated security considerations into its vendor evaluation process. However, once the vendor is approved the security group is no longer tasked with continuously monitoring vendor activity, or the security group lacks the capacity to continuously assess vendor security posture.

Stage 4 – Continuous Risk Monitoring and Evaluation: In this stage, an organization has fully integrated its security team into the vendor evaluation and due diligence process. The security team has tools in place to monitor, assess, and mitigate potential threats before supplier disruption becomes an issue. The organization has processes and policies in place that can scale alongside the organization’s growing (or shrinking) supply chain.

Stage 5 – Stable Supply Chain Security Program: At this level of maturity the organization’s security program is both formalized and effective, at least at dealing with known security risks. However, its apparatus performs poorly when confronting unknown supply chain threats and is inefficient at continuously evaluating vendor security posture.

Stage 6 – Adaptive, Proactive, Supply Chain Security Program: The apex of supply chain security; a smooth process that thoroughly integrates the security and supply chain functions across the enterprise with minimal friction. At this stage the organization is capable of continuous vendor risk monitoring and can act both proactively and predictively, recognizing vendor risk not just from direct suppliers but from suppliers down to the nth tier.

Evaluating Security Maturity: A Key Component of Your Operational Resilience Strategy

How do I know what stage my business is at?

Evaluating the maturity of your own enterprise manually, without the help of a formalized process or professional assessment team, is naturally difficult. But the best way to assess the health of your supply chain security (and to improve that security) is by fully mapping your supply chain. Understanding who you’re doing businesses with, and who they’re doing business with, and so on down to the Nth tier is a crucial step in validating the security posture of your supply chain.

OK, but how do I do THAT?

The simplest, least-disruptive solution to mapping your supply chain is an automated tool. Traditional, manual solutions for supplier identification and tracking are adequate when initially introducing a supplier to your ecosystem. These solutions are unable to meet the needs of most operational resilience strategies; in fact, they’re utterly incapable of tracking changes in that supplier’s security posture in anything approaching real-time. As SANS researcher John Pescatore articulates in his whitepaper, this is a major obstacle to achieving high-level supply chain security maturity.

But I don’t have an automated tool!

You don’t have one yet. That’s where Interos comes in (a shameless plug, I know). But there’s a reason we’re bereft of shame here: our product solves this problem. Interos is the only AI-powered due supply chain assessment/risk management tool on the market (trust us, we checked) and it’s designed to evaluate the security and overall health of your supply chain. Using the power of machine learning, clever engineering, and elbow grease Interos discovers, visualizes, and assesses your suppliers and their supply chains, providing real-time scores across 5 health factors and enabling you to form an up-to-date operational resilience strategy to deliver a continuous monitoring solution.

That means knowing exactly where you and your suppliers and their suppliers stand at all times, and handling the risks of supplier disruption without pesky paperwork or pricey due diligence. Our platform ingests data from over 85,000 sources in near-real time. This enables organizations to maintain constant awareness of their supply chain security posture with minimal effort. No time wasted forming discovery committees, eating bad sandwiches at catered meetings, or figuring out implementation costs. Just sign up for Interos and watch the insights roll in!

Learn more about the importance of maintaining supply chain security by reading the SANS Institute’s recent whitepaper on the subject and at Interos.ai.


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