CISOs are critical to business success in today’s environment. With increases in cybersecurity threats and new ways of working, companies must ensure they are protected online. Still, CISOs often have a hard time proving their value to their fellow executives. CISOs can use the following strategies to better secure their places in the C-suite.
Chief information security officers (known as CISOs) are instrumental in keeping businesses running smoothly. Without their involvement, security threats to organizations would increase significantly. Protecting data, assets, and infrastructure is just one of the many responsibilities CISOs have.
Over the years, the role of the CISO has evolved. With the rise and advancement in cybersecurity threats, CISOs must stay informed on new threats and update their skills to respond effectively. Changes in the way people work, such as remote and hybrid work, add to the importance of ensuring all information related to the business and its stakeholders is protected from scams and threats. Being aware of all new and potential risks makes any CISO a valuable and integral part of business. Yet, CISOs still struggle to secure their seats in the C-suite.
Tim Cook, a partner at Acertitude, an executive search firm that focuses on unleashing human potential by discovering, connecting, and empowering brilliant people at work, explains this well.
“CISOs help their organizations anticipate and reduce risk,” he writes. “A good CISO has both senior-level and teamwide conversations about risk. However, for your CISO to be better than good, you have to integrate them into the executive team — something surprisingly few companies do.”
Cook goes on to explain: “The good news? More than 60% of companies have added a CISO to their team … but only 4% advertised the role on their leadership page. In fact, 77% had zero information on their website about who was in charge of their cybersecurity strategy. That’s a major missed opportunity, and it’s time to flip the switch. When your CISO owns the risk, monitors the risk, and is empowered to take necessary action, you’ll realize the full benefits of the role.”
So, how can CISOs effectively integrate with the rest of the C-suite and wield more power within their organizations? Start here:
- Expand your business language.
To stand out in any role, you need to have something more than your colleagues and peers. Yes, CISOs already play crucial roles in cybersecurity, but expanding their language skills to cover the terminology of all departments — from information security to business audits — will increase their value on the executive board.According to Ed Harris, global director of information security at Mauser Packaging, “Almost all CISOs are fluent in the language of cybersecurity. But that’s not enough. You must be equally proficient in other languages of your organization. After all, you can’t be successful as a CISO if you can’t speak to other leaders and teams in words that they can clearly understand and relate to.”
- Showcase important cybersecurity metrics.
Threat prevention is valuable, but because so many threats never come to fruition, a good CISO can get overlooked. Using data to show the number of risks that were averted, converting this to financial savings, and proving the likelihood of potential threats and how much they would cost the business will help quantify the value you bring to the organization. This makes it easier for those in senior management to see the worth of the CISO role.CEO and co-founder of Living Security, Ashley Rose, explains, “When competing for sometimes scant resources, CISOs need to quantify security risks. Every claim should be backed up with data that demonstrates the company’s security posture and where gaps could lead to a costly attack. The goal is to build the board’s confidence that the right decisions are being made, and money is not being squandered.”
- Be proactive.
Being proactive as a CISO can mean looking for new threats and acting on them to minimize the risks to the organization by putting preventative measures in place. If the threat is new, few other businesses will be aware of it. Cutting the threat off early will put the company ahead of competitors. It also will demonstrate how you value the partners, employees, customers, and clients who could suffer if the data was accessed by someone with ill intentions.This method of being proactive highlights the CISO’s value to other members of the C-suite. Anthony Vance and Michelle Lowry further explain the benefit of being proactive in an article for The Wall Street Journal. They suggest engaging the board without waiting for an invitation because of the limitations of the annual reporting cycle. If you have the opportunity, take it. Bringing new and important insights to your colleagues’ attention helps everyone.
Connect your initiatives to business outcomes.
The connection between CISO initiatives and business outcomes might seem obvious to you, but this isn’t always the case for other C-suite members who aren’t focused on cybersecurity. By connecting the dots, CISOs can demonstrate how the two are linked.
Neil Daswani, co-director of Stanford’s Advanced Cybersecurity program, and Moudy Elbayadi, CTO of Shutterfly, expand on this by suggesting that a presentation to the board can help other executives see the connection between your specific projects and the business’s goals. “For instance, instead of stating the goal as ‘achieve HIPAA compliance,’ the goal should rather be stated as, ‘Enable organization to be able to sell into the healthcare market by achieving HIPAA compliance,’” they write.
To show their value and secure their seats at the C-suite table, CISOs should focus on the above strategies. Don’t be afraid to show your worth — just make sure you can back it up with evidence.
Written by Rhett Power.
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