Well, that�s true, of course, but as an argument it has a really basic problem: it's number-free.
Not all risks, in other words, are the same. The risk of getting hit by a bus is different from, and much smaller than, the risk of starting a business, watching as it slowly fails and getting into deep debt.
Making such a decision reasonably competently means finding a way to clarify, quantify and prioritize the kinds of risks you're facing in a given strategy -- and weighing them against the benefit you're trying to create.
This, in essence, is a problem confronted every day by businesses making complex decisions. They'd like to create improvements or pursue new goals in a given area. But in a perfect world, they'd also like to avoid getting hit by a bus.
By no coincidence, this is also a major focus of IBM's considerable interest in advanced business analytics -- recently described by Mike Rhodin, Vice President of IBM Solutions Group, as �the silver thread woven throughout our portfolio.� Risk assessment and mitigation are central to business strategies -- almost all strategies, in almost all industries. And advanced analytics can deliver some of the best available insight to accomplish that.
Get a moment of clarity -- actually, get lots of them
Toward getting a little more clarity about this area, I talked to John Kelly, Worldwide Market Segment Manager for IBM's Business Analytics group about IBM's perspective in this area... and how that perspective is going to be explored at the forthcoming Vision 2012 conference to be held from May 14-17 at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando.
Like me, Kelly sees analytics as a powerful visualization tool -- a way to understand different possible futures, and steer your organization into a future that offers more benefit and lower risk.
�Customers are looking to improve decision making and business performance through increased insight and business intelligence,� he said. �That's exactly why IBM has recently labeled analytics as one of our four major strategic directions -- we know how much potential this area really has. And we'd like our clients to realize as much of that potential as possible.�
Risk assessment and mitigation, of course, have a long history in some areas (like finance) and are less well understood and established in other areas (like technology startups), but the root appeal remains the same in every case. If you want to get the best possible outcome, you need to establish the most likely, and most potentially devastating, pitfalls.
Analytics tools can work almost like a car's high-beams, helping you navigate and get where you're trying to go more safely. That's a goal that almost any business leader, in any industry, at any organization of any size, can understand and appreciate.
Regulatory compliance stands out as a growing challenge
And beyond that general value proposition, IBM is making considerable strides in applying analytics effectively in areas that are of particular concern to its clients. One such area: regulatory compliance and policy management.
In the wake of major scandals dating back more than a decade, these regulations have increasingly been created with the stated goal of minimizing various forms of unacceptable risk to the public, to business employees and customers as well as to stockholders. And that, of course, is a laudable goal.
But complying with those regulations can be a headache even for the best-intentioned organizations that are really committed to compliance and dedicating tremendous resources to the job. Even when compliance seems to have been achieved, it hasn't always been. New regulations appear every year; it's not the easiest thing in the world to know which apply in a given case, and under what conditions, and what the best organizational response should be.
IBM, it seems, can help. �Our solutions deliver analysis and reporting, to provide visibility into the state of risk in the enterprise including evidence of compliance or remediation status, trending and point-in-time analysis and ad hoc querying,� said Kelly.
Consider what that means in practical terms. Not only can you understand much more clearly, quickly and easily the extent to which your organization is in compliance, but you can also demonstrate that compliance on demand, in whatever level of detail is required. In the event of an audit, such a demonstration will be essential -- and avoiding potentially hefty penalties and fees will be much simpler. What organization wouldn't be interested in solutions like that?
One solution family drawn from IBM's analytics portfolio is particularly strong in the area of compliance and risk: IBM OpenPages. This suite of tools focuses specifically on governance, risk and compliance, not just identifying and monitoring risk, but also putting in place a programmatic way to communicate and manage risk exposure across the enterprise to reduce unexpected losses, penalty and fines (not to mention reputational damage), while at the same time improving decision making.
Its compliance capabilities, for instance, are directly on point. Organizations routinely create (and enforce) policies to drive compliance... but not always in as governed and coherent a fashion as they might. (Banking industry, I'm looking at you when I say that.)
OpenPages Policy and Compliance Management automates the lifecycle of compliance policies from cradle to grave, reducing redundancy and optimizing the policies you keep in a way that spans resources, business groups, projects and workflow. Organizations that have a formal implementation of risk mitigation, but would like to tune or enhance it to better align with their current and future needs (not to mention future regulations), will find this solution particularly compelling.
A better outcome can result from risk-aware decision making
Risk management is increasingly becoming a strategic, executive-sponsored solution that many organizations view as providing a competitive advantage where risk and performance are aligned and where governance, risk and compliance is part of �annual strategic planning�.
An integrated governance, risk and compliance program also has a wealth of information that can be leveraged for risk-aware decisions. Through business intelligence and reporting, information from an integrated program is being utilized beyond the risk and compliance office and being leveraged by business managers to make risk-informed decisions about resource and investment allocations in product planning.
Optimize your risk management strategies in many dimensions
Other OpenPages solutions -- which inter-operate with each other, via a shared foundation of data -- are available to deliver similar capabilities in related fields like:
- Operational risk management. This offering can identify, manage, monitor and analyze operational risks of all types, all from a single point of command to spur a particularly agile response. From better, more accurate insight comes a faster and more comprehensive remediation.
- Financial controls management: Regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley in the United States are mirrored by similar regulations in other countries around the world -- and for global organizations, each crossed border represents a new set of financial regulations with which to comply. This solution focuses on reporting, offering a centralized architecture for analysis, documentation and data management.
- IT governance. IT has become central to almost everything organizations do today. As a result, risk assessment for IT assets, services and data is needed to ensure that IT delivers the intended value -- ideally, on time and under budget -- even in the case of complex projects that take years to complete.
- Internal audit management. For large organizations that proactively conduct audits of their own, this solution is a natural fit. Using it, they can automate many of the basic processes involved, as well as connect the results logically to other risk assessment initiatives they have in place.
Anyone interested in getting more information on these and related topics should definitely consider attending the previously mentioned Vision 2012 conference.
This is the premier global conference for finance and risk professionals, and the most high-profile stage for IBM to discuss everything it has to offer in this rapidly evolving, increasingly hot area.
When I asked Kelly to sum up in a nutshell what IBM will be discussing at Vision 2012, he said this:
�IBM Risk Analytics enables the Smarter Analytics approach -- turning risk information into insight, and insight into better business outcomes.�
I like the sound of that.
Learn how Business Analytics improves business performance
See what Vision 2012 offers for finance and risk management professionals
Gain relevant business insight through Smarter Analytics
Smarter Analytics for the financial industry
About the author
Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.
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