Compliance

The Master of All GRC Metrics: Four Frameworks with Performance Metrics

Kerwyn Velasco
February 25, 2024
Learn with anecdotes how utilizing common GRC metrics can help ensure Compliance

In the context of GRC, metrics refer to measurable indicators used to assess and track the performance, effectiveness, and Compliance of an organization's GRC initiatives. GRC metrics provide quantifiable data for:

  • Helping organizations understand and evaluate their GRC processes
  • Identifying areas of improvement
  • Assisting leadership in making informed decisions to mitigate risks and ensure Compliance with relevant regulations and policies

Let’s explore how Compliance leaders can use metrics to help their organizations find the right balance between performance and risk. 

Why are GRC Metrics so Important?

Metrics play a central role in GRC for several reasons. They provide objective measurements to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of GRC activities, helping organizations evaluate their progress towards goals. Metrics also aid in risk assessment by quantifying potential threats and vulnerabilities, enabling prioritization of risk management efforts. They assist in monitoring Compliance with regulations, industry standards, and internal policies. Metrics in GRC inform decision making by identifying trends and areas for improvement, allowing effective resource allocation and strategy adjustments. Additionally, they facilitate communication by conveying GRC performance to stakeholders and addressing concerns.

What are the Components of a GRC Metric?

According to NIST, metrics differ from measures as they are used for more abstract attributes that are hard to define objectively, such as when evaluating robustness, quality, or effectiveness.  Components of governance, risk and Compliance metrics include:

Goals What are the targets for strategic objectives or performance plans? Goals can be set for both information security and for the organization as a whole.
Type Is the metric related to implementation, effectiveness/efficiency, or impact?
Formula What is the calculation to be performed?
Target What yardstick or milestone would be considered satisfactory? This can be expressed in percentage, timeframe, dollars, or any other measurement unit.

A Dive into Key GRC Metrics 

Different types of GRC metrics serve various purposes in an organization's performance management and risk management processes. However, these metric types enhance GRC decision-making, manage risks, and drive organizational success.

KRI - Key Risk Indicator:

In GRC, Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) are used to measure and monitor the critical risks faced by an organization. These metrics help identify potential risks and enable proactive risk management strategies. KRIs are specific to each organization's risk profile and industry.

Example: The number of high-severity data breaches reported within a given period from similar companies can serve as a GRC KRI to measure the risk of data breaches and provide insights into the effectiveness of cybersecurity controls and the organization's overall data protection posture.

KPI - Key Performance Indicator:

GRC Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used to assess and measure the performance and effectiveness of GRC initiatives and processes.  A GRC KPI helps organizations track progress, identify areas for improvement, and achieve Compliance and governance objectives. 

Example: The percentage of regulatory Compliance training completed by employees within the specified deadline can serve as a KPI to measure Compliance adherence and demonstrate the organization's commitment to regulatory requirements and employee training.

OKR - Objective and Key Result:

In GRC, the Objective and Key Result (OKR) framework is used to align GRC objectives with measurable results. OKRs provide a structured approach to set and monitor goals, track progress, and drive continuous improvement in GRC activities. 


Example:

Objective: Enhance the vendor risk management process.

Key Result 1: Reduce the average time it takes to onboard new vendors by 20% within three months.

Key Result 2: Increase the Compliance rating of vendors by 15% within six months.

Key Result 3: Conduct independent audits of top-tier vendors with a completion rate of 90% within one year.

In this example, the OKR framework is used to set objectives related to vendor risk management and define specific key results to measure the progress toward those objectives. The organization can track these key results over time and make adjustments to achieve the desired outcomes in vendor risk management.

4 Metrics Libraries for GRC Enhanced Performance Management and Risk Assessment

Discover and use a wide range of frameworks and metrics with these GRC metric libraries:

World Economic Forum ESG Metrics

The World Economic Forum (WEF) ESG Metrics provide a set of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indicators. These metrics are designed to assess organizations' sustainability and societal impact across various industries. The WEF ESG Metrics cover many areas, including climate change, human rights, diversity and inclusion, supply chain management, and corporate governance. They serve as a standardized framework for organizations to measure, monitor, and report their ESG performance. By utilizing these metrics, companies can enhance transparency, compare their performance against industry peers, and demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices.

NIST 800-55 Performance Indicators for Information Security

The NIST 800-55 Performance Indicators for Information Security provides a set of metrics specifically focused on measuring and evaluating the performance of information security programs. Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), these GRC metrics are designed to help organizations assess their security controls' effectiveness and identify improvement areas. The NIST 800-55 security metrics cover a range of security domains, such as access control, incident response, vulnerability management, and security awareness training. By implementing these metrics, organizations can monitor their security posture, track progress in addressing security vulnerabilities, and align their security efforts with industry best practices.

Continuous Audit Metrics Cloud Security Alliance

The Continuous Audit Metrics Catalog by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) provides a comprehensive collection of metrics specifically tailored for assessing the security and Compliance of cloud computing environments. These metrics are designed to support continuous auditing practices, enabling organizations to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their cloud security controls. The CSA metrics cover various domains, including data protection, identity and access management, incident response, and security monitoring. By utilizing these metrics, organizations can gain insights into the effectiveness of their cloud security measures, identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, and enhance their overall cloud security posture.

CIS Common Security Controls Metrics

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) provides a set of measures and metrics as part of its CIS Control framework. These metrics are designed to help organizations assess and improve their cybersecurity posture by implementing recommended security controls. The CIS Controls measures and metrics cover various security Compliance domains, including asset management, vulnerability management, secure configuration, access control, and incident response. By adopting these metrics, organizations can measure their Compliance with the CIS Controls, identify gaps in their security defenses, and prioritize remediation efforts. The CIS metrics provide a standardized approach to cybersecurity measurement and allow organizations to benchmark their security performance against industry best practices.

Maximizing Success through Continuous, Automated GRC Metrics

Metrics play a vital role in GRC by measuring performance, assessing risks, ensuring Compliance, and driving organizational success. Continuous and automated measurement data collection is crucial, allowing organizations to stay human error-free, proactive, and agile in their approach to GRC. The forthcoming release of NIST 800-55 emphasizes the importance of ongoing evaluation and improvement of security controls. By utilizing a GRC metrics library and embracing continuous measurement, organizations can optimize their GRC efforts, make informed decisions, and drive long-term success.

Kerwyn Velasco
Security and Compliance Nerd with 10 years GRC experience wearing all kinds of hats. He currently does marketing at anecdotes.