Risk heat maps are data visualisation tools designed to give you an insight into the specific risks your organisation faces. With these tools in place, it’s easier to identify and prioritise risks associated with your line of business. By helping you to understand your organisation’s risk appetite and risk profile, a risk heat map improves your enterprise risk management strategy.
In a risk heat map, individual values are graphically represented as colors to connote meaning. This allows you to present your organisation’s risk assessment results in a concise, visually attractive, and easy-to-understand format. For instance, where a table needs to be understood, or a chart interpreted, a heat map comes in handy since it’s intuitive and self-explanatory.
Typically, risk heat maps are tailor-made for putting large data sets into an easy-to-understand context. Thus it isn’t surprising that cybersecurity experts consider heat risk heat maps a vital visualisation tool that helps them identify, prioritise, and mitigate risks.
What are the Benefits of Using a Risk Heat Map?
Despite the overall benefit of providing a clear picture of your organisation’s risk environment, here are the other benefits of heat maps:
- They provide a holistic and visual view of the risk environment to guide your decision-making.
- Help you to improve your risk management process and practices.
- Improve your organisation’s focus on risk tolerance and risk appetite
- Ensure precision in your risk assessment process
- Help you to pinpoint gaps in your enterprise risk management process
- Better incorporation of risk management into the organisational setup
The beauty of using a heat map as a visualisation tool for your risk environment is that it provides a logical and straightforward way to rank your risks. In doing so, you get an idea of what risks should get prioritised and those that can be tolerated. Heat maps are also versatile because you can incorporate them into multiple risk assessment strategies across your organisation. Hence, they are critical for both simple and broader risk assessments.
Tips for Using Risk Heat Maps
Using a risk heat map entails identifying your organisation’s risk and ranking their possible likelihood and impact. After gathering and evaluating your organisation’s risk data, you should decide how to visualise the data concisely and sensibly. That said, here are ways to use heat maps in your risk assessment process:
Gauge the Likelihood of Risk Events Occurring vs. Their Impact
In cybersecurity, the risk is the product of breach probability and impact. So, if you’re using a heat map to represent that, you may want the horizontal axis to show the probability of a breach. Similarly, the vertical axis should show the business impact of the event.
The colors you use in the heat map should represent risk areas. For instance, you may use green-colored boxes to indicate no action is necessary and red boxes to show immediate action is required. Individual risk items can be plotted on your heat map based on the probability of the risk event happening and its business impact (Risk = Impact × Probability).
Compare Breach Likelihood In Multiple Business Areas
Besides your cyber environment, risk can occur in other areas of your organisation. Risk is multifaceted and can be legal, reputational, political, operational, competitive, or even financial. So, when creating a risk heat map, break down your organisation into these business areas before considering the individual weaknesses of each area and the risks that lie therein.
When you break down your risk areas, it will be easier to determine breach likelihood across your organisation. Likewise, consider creating heat maps for the different risk groups within your organisation, including business units, asset types, and locations. In doing so, you’ll have a clearer picture of your risk environment and what needs to be done to minimise the likelihood of risk events.
Map Your IT Assets
If your organisation has IT assets, data breaches are a matter of when and not if. Hence, when creating heat maps, audit your IT inventory to ensure everything gets captured. This should be done based on the type of your IT assets and the risk associated with each category.
Monitor and Update Regularly
Risks can occur in different forms, and your heat map should help you stay apprised of these changes. Remember that a risk heat map is not a static document but a visual representation of the ever-changing risk environment. Therefore, it should change as your organisation grows. In disregard, monitor and update your risk heat map as your organisation grows. While at it, modify your risks, the ranking system, and mitigation efforts.
Creating a heat map is a vital aspect of the risk management process. It helps you monitor the threats you face and formulate mitigation measures if risk events occur. Using an integrated risk management tool alongside the heat maps gives you total control over your risk landscape, thus helping you keep threats at bay.
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