#HowTo: Strengthen Supply Chain Security

As demonstrated by the recent ransomware cybersecurity attacks, everyone suffers when a supply chain is compromised: buyers, suppliers and users. The pace and magnitude of these and other attacks are increasing. It is clear that supply chain security needs strong oversight and control to ensure security.

Unfortunately, supply chain security spans a wide range of risks — from physical threats to cyber-attacks, including mitigating risks that come with dozens (if not hundreds) of industry partnerships. To effectively approach supply chain security, it will take a multifaceted, coordinated and holistic approach.

Mitigating supply chain risk is growing increasingly difficult. As organizations scale, so too does the opportunity for risk. Supply chain security must also balance large and complex global networks alongside staff and budget constraints, not to mention unforeseen disruptions. At the same time, there is an overarching demand — from governments, customers and employees — for increased transparency and visibility into the supply chain. Each of these touchpoints increases the opportunity for risk and must be assessed, managed or mitigated.

A recent study found that only 10% of supply chain professionals feel highly prepared for future disruption, making most organizations unprepared for whatever change comes next. As organizations look to handle the consequences of recent supply chain security incidents, they must focus on what can be done ahead of time to assess risk and minimize potential disruption and prepare for the inevitable disruption — unknown or unforeseen. Here are a few ways organizations can strengthen their approach to supply chain security for the future.

Evaluate Your Supply Chain Bill of Material

This may seem obvious, but understanding your supply chain security depends on a strong understanding of what makes up the supply chain and data supply chain. Many programs have a hard time understanding the provider and the actual software bill of material, cloud providers and other downstream providers (4th parties) that are being used in the delivery of products and services. This could increase the total number of assets significantly and needs to be accounted for in your program.

Recognize and Prepare for Vulnerabilities

Every good plan begins with an assessment of the policies and procedures already in place. When assessing supply chain risk and compliance, organizations need to evaluate what they can control and what they cannot, including third-party risk, data privacy and regulatory gaps. In addition, firms should work to identify potential security concerns by conducting vulnerability scans of technology policies and training procedures. Developing security threat recognition capabilities and preparing incident response plans should an attack occur are critical to supply chain security.

Assess Third-Party Risk

Supply chains are complex webs of business networks that allow the exchange of goods and data between organizations and open up each of those organizations to additional risk. As organizations scale, they need to expand vendor risk management to include security and enable the assessment and monitoring of risk throughout the relationship lifecycle.

Increase Data Visibility to Mitigate Risk

It is crucial that organizations have guardrails in place that allow them to decide who to share data with and what each permissioned party can see. Organizations should centralize workflows and data across the entire organization to increase end-to-end performance reporting, thereby increasing data visibility and transparency across the supply chain and ultimately decreasing the amount of risk.

Digitize and Automate Processes

Today’s organizations have moved far beyond manual methods to track and secure data, and there is no time to waste on potential human error. Digitization of essential manual processes is key, and enabling automation across complex workflows can help streamline supply chain security. Most manual processes tend not to be agile, and when disruption occurs, the ability to quickly adapt and make changes can make all the difference. Modernizing even a single unique process in your supply chain can be a competitive advantage.

Embrace Agile Technologies

Supply chains are under immense pressure to deliver quality at speed. By embracing agile technologies like no-code and automating workflows, organizations can unite data across the entire supply chain for faster, more informed decision-making. Implementing no-code technology also enables organizations to tap into existing staff or resources for increased ability to react quickly when disruption occurs.

Today’s supply chains face several risks, some demonstrated by recent incidents, others still lurking beneath the surface. To be prepared for potential future disruptions, organizations need to assess current supply chain policies and procedures and update programs to include a holistic focus on security. This will help to proactively prepare for disruption and be better equipped to react when the inevitable disruption occurs.

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