Work smarter with bowtie analysis software: the types of bowtie software
There are a few different bowtie analysis software packages on the market, so what’s the difference? There are three distinct features that can make all the difference.
If you’re currently using bowties in your risk practice, it makes sense to consider using bowtie software. Creating bowties can be a laborious process without good tools. It’s worth noting that if all you’re getting out of the exercise is a diagram, you’re missing out.
There’s three types of bowtie analysis software, with three distinct layers of capability.
Bowtie software: the “diagram-maker”
The most basic level of bowtie software functionality is the creation of bowtie diagrams. Drawing bowtie diagrams manually is a pain, which is why this basic level of software exists. This functionality has been around for the longest. Many organisations still use office spreadsheets with extensive programming and macros which allow the user to create clunky bowtie diagrams. There are also off-the-shelf programs which perform the sole function of creating bowtie diagrams which can be exported in various formats.
At this level of functionality, you can expect these kinds of features:
- Drawing bowtie diagrams with causes, consequences, controls and the top event
- Limited editing of the layout and appearance of the bowtie
- Exporting options to certain formats (usually image or pdf)
This type of bowtie software should be used with caution. It is essentially just a graphic editing suite, which is fine if you have another system for rigorous risk analysis. If you need real risk analysis capability, you need the next level of bowtie analysis software on the market.
Bowtie analysis software: the “analyser”
Some bowtie software packages can be used as sophisticated risk analysis tools. They allow you to enter data into the software, which will render a bowtie diagram based on automated calculations. At this level you should expect to see:
- Automatic rendering of bowtie diagrams based on causes, consequences, controls and top event
- Automatic calculation of risk using a customisable risk matrix
- Exporting in bowtie diagram form or tabular format
These features are the bare minimum necessary for a bowtie analysis software package to be effective for risk analysis. You need to have confidence that the software can calculate risk based on your risk criteria and render an accurate bowtie diagram. At this level, the user wants more than just to create a picture of the risk scenario. The user is using the software to conduct risk analysis and to inform decision-making.
Some software packages at this level of functionality have additional capabilities that make them better-suited to risk analysis.
Semi-quantitative risk analysis is available in a handful of bowtie software packages. This allows you to calculate risk based on quantitative values (numbers) assigned to qualitative factors (likelihood, consequence). Organisations that have plenty of risk data to work with can more precisely calculate their risk exposure using this feature.
Cost-benefit analysis is an invaluable feature if you’re using bowtie software for risk analysis. The software automatically calculates cost-benefit based on the costs and calculation method that you configure in the system. This gives you a way to explore costs and benefits of different risk options more quickly, because the software re-calculates values faster than would be possible by hand.
Critical controls setup is very handy if you’re working with multiple bowties with multiple risk controls. This functionality gives you the ability to create groups of critical controls across different bowties, which reduces the volume of unique data. It also allows you to give a particular critical control group a particular effectiveness rating which carries over to every instance where that risk control is used (saving time in setting up new bowties for risk analysis).
This type of bowtie analysis software is well-suited for beginners and experts alike. It provides a guided approach to bowtie analysis, with sophisticated analytical capabilities and automated calculations to reduce the time investment needed to conduct rigorous risk analysis.
There is another level higher of bowtie analysis software, one which allows you to have a complete risk management system based on robust bowtie analysis.
Bowtie analysis software: the “integrator”
Only a few software packages are available at this level of capability. Here, we’re looking at advanced features that enable you to link risk analysis to other parts of the risk management system. A risk management system usually has the following elements:
Bowtie analysis software at this level is capable of all of the above elements. RiskView is the market leader in bowtie analysis software at this level.
Risk identification is supported by linking risk identification tools to bowtie analysis. RiskView, for example, includes guided hazard identification and risk study tools. These can be used to identify risks and document their properties in detail. Having populated the risk register, you can then automatically create bowtie diagrams using the data from the risk register. The risk scenarios, causes, consequences and controls will be automatically rendered into a bowtie. Risk levels will be automatically calculated based on your data inputs. You can then build on your risk identification work to analyse risks in more detail.
Auditing and control assurance is supported with tools to create audits based on bowtie analysis findings. The auditing module in RiskView supports inspections, audits, and other activities in the field using mobile devices (with or without an internet connection). Audit templates can be based on groups of critical risk controls, risk scenarios, or technical standards. Audit findings automatically update on the system and can be used to make adjustments to the rated effectiveness of risk controls in your bowtie diagrams.
Risk monitoring is supported with tools for viewing real-time reporting on risk performance. In RiskView, there are customisable dashboards which provide charts and graphs displaying risk performance data. Audit findings and tracked actions can be viewed through the reporting tabs, which allows managers to review performance and make adjustments. Risk reviews can be initiated on demand or scheduled within the system.
The benefit of using bowtie analysis software as a complete risk management solution is that your system is centred on robust risk analysis. Every action on the system is linked back to risk analysis, which provides confidence in decision-making.
If you’re interested in improving the quality of your risk analysis work, consider which level of bowtie software would be appropriate to your circumstances. Software packages like RiskView are available at different licence levels depending on what level of functionality you need.
Does your business use bowties in risk management? Are you using the right level of functionality for your organisation’s needs?