Finding the Right Fit between IT and Business

There's a sea-change in information security and security specialists need to evolve effectively, not just in terms of IT alone, but in business as a whole. Can they step up to the challenge?

We all know that the unrelenting pace of technology change has driven many organizations to rethink business strategies and models to embrace new capabilities and extend their market reach. Increasingly, this means theboundaries between IT and business are being blurred. Many companies would collapse--even in the short term--without their IT. Furthermore, the changing technology and business world comes with an overlay of a growing regulatory, audit, compliance, and threat landscape. This presents a challenge to managing the resource-strapped information security.Keeping across evolving technology on all its levels is nothing new for information security specialists; this is, after all, bread and butter--their passion, and what they have always done best. But to step into the shoes of the business and its consumers and consider security in terms of agility, flexibility, compliance, awareness, strategic direction, pragmatism, and so on, is another ball game entirely. These are whole new skill sets for most information security specialists that they now require to be effective in their work. That these remain elusive (I would suggest) is, in large part, because we are stuck in the past and not thinking outside the square.Despite business powering onwards and upwards with new technologies, business structures tend to remain static. This is no exception for information security. If I have already urged a review of the positioning of information security in the organizational structure, it follows that I also urge a review of what an information security specialist is, and what their skills look like. There is so much more to know and understand now, and so many skills that haven't figured in this space until recently. Soft skills and non-technical skills are now critically important in handling the creeping scope of information security--and to overcome the general reticence of business stakeholders to engage. But how often does one find a masterful technologist that is also a masterful administrator, communicator, business driver, or compliance expert? They exist, rarely.In my opinion, the changing needs of the business must be supported and guided by a holistic information security capability that can no longer subscribe to the traditional one-size-fits-all team model, but rather a combination of complimentary skill-sets. Information security can comprise virtual members and perhaps outsource some functions. I'm not saying get rid of the information security team but rather leverage and diversify. This approach certainly works in other areas of the business and IT, and can also be a successful model for information security--in fact I would suggest this is the ideal model.Done correctly, an incorporated information security structure will be targeted, agile,and efficient. Benefits are many, including broader exposure of information security practices and more timely risk management, increased business engagement, relevance and awareness with the ultimate benefit being business cost savings. Sharing the load makes sense--after all security is everyone's responsibility.

We all know that the unrelenting pace of technology change has driven many organizations to rethink business strategies and models to embrace new capabilities and extend their market reach. Increasingly, this means the boundaries between IT and business are being blurred. Many companies would collapse--even in the short term--without their IT. Furthermore, the changing technology and business world comes with an overlay of a growing regulatory, audit, compliance, and threat landscape. This presents a challenge to managing the resource-strapped information security.

Keeping across evolving technology on all its levels is nothing new for information security specialists; this is, after all, bread and butter--their passion, and what they have always done best. But to step into the shoes of the business and its consumers and consider security in terms of agility, flexibility, compliance, awareness, strategic direction, pragmatism, and so on, is another ball game entirely. These are whole new skill sets for most information security specialists that they now require to be effective in their work. That these remain elusive (I would suggest) is, in large part, because we are stuck in the past and not thinking outside the square.

Despite business powering onwards and upwards with new technologies, business structures tend to remain static. This is no exception for information security. If I have already urged a review of the positioning of information security in the organizational structure, it follows that I also urge a review of what an information security specialist is, and what their skills look like. There is so much more to know and understand now, and so many skills that haven't figured in this space until recently. Soft skills and non-technical skills are now critically important in handling the creeping scope of information security--and to overcome the general reticence of business stakeholders to engage. But how often does one find a masterful technologist that is also a masterful administrator, communicator, business driver, or compliance expert? They exist, rarely.

In my opinion, the changing needs of the business must be supported and guided by a holistic information security capability that can no longer subscribe to the traditional one-size-fits-all team model, but rather a combination of complimentary skill-sets. Information security can comprise virtual members and perhaps outsource some functions. I'm not saying get rid of the information security team but rather leverage and diversify. This approach certainly works in other areas of the business and IT, and can also be a successful model for information security--in fact I would suggest this is the ideal model.

Done correctly, an incorporated information security structure will be targeted, agile,and efficient. Benefits are many, including broader exposure of information security practices and more timely risk management, increased business engagement, relevance and awareness with the ultimate benefit being business cost savings. Sharing the load makes sense--after all security is everyone's responsibility.

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