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Vendor Risk Assessment

Discover how and why conducting a vendor risk assessment ensures supply reliability and reduces your own facility’s potential risks.

Jonathan Haney headhsot
Jonathan Haney

Senior Director, Marketplaces

What is a Vendor Risk Assessment?

A vendor risk assessment is a systemic process used for evaluating potential risks of an outsourced third-party supplier. Most facilities rely heavily on their vendors to ensure operational efficiency. Therefore, any potential vendor risks are also business risks.

Vendor risk assessments are also a form of quality assurance for the goods or services a facility outsources to third-party vendors. For this reason, choosing low-risk vendors is also a way for facilities to lower their own reputational risk.

Why Conduct a Vendor Risk Assessment?

A vendor risk assessment is how you confirm that potential vendors can deliver their goods or services effectively and reliably. It’s also a way to protect your facility from potential disruptions, financial issues, supply chain problems, health and safety issues, or legal conflicts.

Additionally, it’s a way to help your managers make informed decisions about which vendors they’re willing to work with and under what terms.

Example Types of Vendor Risk

  • Data security risk: Involves cybersecurity risks and the risk of unauthorized system access to sensitive customer data by third parties.
  • Geographic risk: Stems from the vendor being located in an area prone to natural disasters, political instability, or any other issue that could disrupt the local supply chain.
  • Operational risk: Refers to how likely a vendor’s operations or financial stability are to cause a failure to deliver services or products.
  • Compliance risk: Compliance risks refer to the vendor’s ability to adhere to relevant laws, regulations, and standards.
  • Replacement risk: Refers to the risks and costs associated with finding and transitioning to a new vendor. This risk may also relate to vendor lock-in potential.
  • Reputational risk: Involves potential damage to your reputation due to the vendor’s poor performance or misconduct.

Components of a Vendor Risk Assessment

Risk Identification

Risk identification focuses on cataloging potential third-party risks a vendor might introduce. Each identified risk must be well-documented as they will lay the foundation for your risk management strategies.

Risk Analysis

A risk analysis assesses the probability and potential severity of each vendor risk. Risks are usually assessed based on how much they could possibly impact your facility’s integrity and business continuity. Risks that have a higher likelihood or worse consequences should take mitigation priority.

Risk Evaluation

A risk evaluation aligns your risk tolerance with the potential risks of each vendor as identified and analyzed in the previous two sections. This evaluation is when managers discuss what they deem as an acceptable or unacceptable risk and decisions can be made accordingly.

Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation involves developing strategies to reduce the impact of potential risks. These strategies may include implementing controls, transferring risk through insurance, or renegotiating vendor contracts.

How to Execute a Vendor Risk Assessment

1. Identify Key Stakeholders

Begin by identifying all relevant stakeholders at your facility. Their insights will help ensure a comprehensive assessment of vendor-related risks.

2. Define Assessment Criteria

Develop clear, standardized risk criteria for evaluating vendors. These criteria should cover security risks, compliance, financial risks, and operational risks. Consider using established frameworks like ISO or NIST to guide this process if they’re relevant to your industry.

3. Gather Vendor Data

Use questionnaires, interviews, or review provided documentation to gather necessary information from each vendor. Look for information about each vendor’s business practices, data handling procedures, and compliance records.

4. Assess Risks

Analyze the collected data to assess the potential risks each vendor may pose. Compare these risks to your risk tolerance level to determine which are high-risk vendors and which are low-risk vendors.

5. Develop Risk Mitigation Strategies

If you can’t avoid working with a high-risk vendor, develop specific strategies to mitigate those risks. Example strategies include contract amendments or additional monitoring for the specific high-risk vendor.

6. Implement Monitoring Procedures

Continuously monitor key risk indicators for each selected vendor. Regular audits and reviews should be part of this process to ensure that vendors continually meet your expectations.

7. Review and Update

It’s important to regularly revisit and update your risk assessment process. That’s because relevant legal and regulatory compliance standards are subject to change. You may have to perform a follow-up assessment with your vendors to ensure their risk-level hasn’t changed due to new regulations.

Challenges in Vendor Risk Assessments


Evaluating risks with multiple vendors can become time and resource intensive. That’s simply because each vendor will deliver goods and services differently. Therefore, you may need a customized vendor risk assessment process for each one.

Risk Fluctuation

Vendor risks are subject to change. Laws may fluctuate, previously low-risk geographic areas may become higher risk, and technology updates can introduce new cybersecurity risks. So, the results of a previous vendor risk assessment may become irrelevant later.

Vendor Transparency

Potential vendors may not always be completely honest about their risks. You are relying on information you gather from them while they’re trying to make a sale. In some cases, it may be wise to seek additional feedback from objective third parties. However, this lengthens the risk assessment process.

How to Overcome Vendor Risk Assessment Challenges

Build Strong Relationships

Do what you can to build strong vendor relationships. When you have a good vendor relationship, the vendor is more likely to be honest and transparent about their potential risks. Working as business partners also makes it easier for you to collaboratively mitigate risks.

Leverage Technology

Using software and tools designed for risk assessment helps you manage and analyze data more efficiently. These technologies also help streamline processes and improve accuracy during risk evaluations.

Continuous Monitoring

Implementing systems to continuously monitor vendor performance and risk indicators is key for better risk management. If new third-party risks arise, you can assess your facility’s risk exposure and proactively plan next steps to reduce any newly identified vendor risks.

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