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Blog > What Are Key Risk Indicators?

What Are Key Risk Indicators?

VComply Editorial Team
March 25, 2024
3 minutes

In the modern-day market and workplace, risk is a part and parcel of business operations. Considering the shift to remote working, threats and potential vulnerabilities are ever present, which is why risk management is now a top priority. As a matter of fact, in 2021, General Data Protection Regulation fines rose by around 40%. Big names like the Marriott and British Airways incurred fines of $23.8 million and $26 million, respectively, for data breaches. This is the cost of poor risk assessment and management controls in today’s economic climate. Thankfully, auditors and risk management teams can get ahead of such problem areas with clearly defined key risk indicators (KRIs).

Much like key performance indicators, KRIs offer invaluable insight for any organization. In this case of British Airways and Marriott, it is data that caused the potential weak spots of operation. In a competitive, fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, having clear KRIs is what helps a company work toward its goals without incurring the sting of noncompliance or breaches. However, simply establishing these indicators isn’t enough. 

Even with a well-established KRI framework, there are challenges the company may still face. For instance, a common misconception is that KRIs are a plug-and-play fix to risk management and control. This is far from the truth when in fact, it is a system that constantly evolves to complement the company’s goals. Moreover, there is a serious lack of understanding concerning the relationship between KPIs and KRIs, which can be damaging. 

For more insight into KRIs and their role in bettering business practices, read on. 

How are KRIs defined? 

Key risk indicators are metrics used to measure how risky any given activity is, especially when it concerns business objectives. This is a quantifiable approach to risk identification and monitoring that provides invaluable information needed for risk mitigation. Basically, KRIs help predict risks through data and is an effective way of establishing controls to prevent future exposure. 

However, for KRIs to be as effective as intended, there are some conditions they have to meet. For instance, KRIs should be: 

  • Quantifiable and represented in standardized metrics
  • Informational, thus providing relevant information about a given risk and its control 
  • Comparable to ensure trends can be tracked over any period of time

All things considered, KRIs are meant to comprehensively answer the question, ‘What factors can prevent the company from achieving its goals?’ This is the most basic, and simultaneously the most profound, objective of this tool. 

Why are KRIs important? 

KRIs form an integral part of any operational risk management framework and it serves several other purposes too. Some of the main reasons why KRIs are important are that they: 

  • Create a culture of objectivity in risk management practices
  • Establish benchmarking, thus offering perspective
  • Quantify risks and their potential for negative outcomes 
  • Enable risk monitoring and timely enforcement of control protocols
  • Help identify exposure relating to active risk trends
  • Provide key personnel with relevant alerts in advance
  • Allow teams to design and implement effective risk responses

What are the types of KRIs? 

There are several different types of KRIs and not all required for building an effective framework. In fact, for better management, it may be wise to use KRIs that best suit the industry, thus allowing for more detailed risk analysis across the board. Ultimately, these indicators should align with both internal and external factors to offer maximum insight. 

Here are some of the most common KRI types to be aware of. 

Operational KRIs:

Closely linked to operational risk and the factors that cause such losses. Generally, operation KRIs could range from ineffective internal controls to process inefficiencies, internal failures, leadership changes, and changes to a given entity’s strategic goals. 

Human resource KRIs:

These KRIs are most commonly utilized by HR departments or companies that deal with staffing and recruitment. Common KRI options include labor shortages, high staff turnover, low staff satisfaction or low recruiting conversion. 

Technological KRIs:

Tech-related KRIs are very common across most industries. These KRIs measure system failures, data breach incidents or regulatory changes. 

Financial KRIs:

Such KRIs are common amongst banks, CPA firms and other such entities. External KRIs include regulatory changes, economic crashes or others, while internal measures include acquisitions, budget changes or changes in strategic goals. 


What should the ideal KRI roadmap look like? 

While most companies will, and should, have varying KRIs, there may be ground for commonality when discussing its implementation. KRIs must be linked to company strategies and enforced systematically across systems. This is where a roadmap can help, as it offers guidance. 

Here is an example of what a high-level roadmap should look like. 

  1. Developing the framework
  2. Providing staff with training on KRIs
  3. Conducting workshops for all functional units
  4. Finding the primary KRIs for the company 
  5. Establish tolerance levels for KRIs
  6. Tracking and reporting KRIs
  7. Creating remedial protocols for breaches
  8. Adding controls and improving on them as needed
  9. Reassessing and reviewing KRI inventory

What are the challenges faced when developing a KRI framework?

While the principle of creating KRIs may seem quite straightforward, the truth is it is quite a problem for most companies. Some of the common challenges include: 

  • Added resources required to develop the KRI framework
  • Creating a holistic framework without excluding risks
  • Failure to integrate KPIs with the KRIs
  • Inefficiencies in tracking KRIs due to a lack of resources or management tools
  • Accessing credible and objective quantitative data without losing value due to complexity or errors in interpretation. 

Considering the inherent dependency on data, right from its collection protocols to accessibility and meaningful interpretation, it isn’t shocking that technology has a crucial role to play in this scenario. Effective KRI frameworks rest on the shoulders of technological tools for optimal implementation. They help eliminate the need for manual input, automate key processes and simplify tracking. Simply put, they offer a great deal of benefits, provided they are well equipped. The VComply GRC software suite is one such provision designed to meet these specific needs. 

Make risk assessment, management and mitigation a breeze with this all-in-one, intuitive platform. This tool empowers teams and enables them to operate at maximum efficiency. Risk teams can use it to collaborate freely with the workshop functionality and enforce controls to mitigate losses.