For today's business, things have reached critical mass. Not only are we seeing data breaches at every turn, but we're also finding fractured camps at their root—'civil war' within an already raging 'cyber war.' If this sounds familiar, take heart—big problems, both real and perceived, can be worked through and neutralized. It comes down to communication, to going beyond department lines, and focusing on common goals. After all, we're talking about the success not just of a company, but of each and every member.
"It's actually a lot easier to achieve an objective when you're heading in the same direction." —Jeffrey Evans, head of global digital marketing, American Express
All too often, an insular approach within departments is the fault line that can lead to large scale rifts. In fact, out of the 24,000+ IT and business professionals surveyed in Tripwire and Ponemon's 2013 study:
Worse still, for those who were proactive in sharing information:
Obvious problems—So what's the root cause? A majority of respondents say that
"the information is too technical to be understood by non-technical management." A 2014 Websense / Ponemon study produced similar sentiments, with 48% of surveyed IT professionals listing executives'
"sub-par understanding of security issues" as a major communication killer. This is starting to look like a blame game. So just what is expected of both IT and the C-suite if they hope to prevail?
Let's start by admitting that IT professionals, whatever their position, often feel tragically misunderstood. And at times, worse than that—ignored and under-appreciated. Now, while the communication gap is totally understandable, things don't have to be this way. And thankfully, these "opposites" aren't doomed to forever be at odds; though it will take efforts on both sides of the field. First, let's focus on actionable tips that IT folks can use to break down the divide:
"Smart CIOs bring a high level of business acumen to the table and understand that investments in technology must be grounded in a clear explanation of the business value they will deliver." —David Axson, managing director, Accenture Strategy, Finance and Enterprise Performance
It could be easy to be caught up in the "no cost is too much for security" argument. And theoretically, you'd be right. But by putting essential system updates in business terms, you're appealing to the broader needs of the company, and to the baseline of the group that you're hoping will jump on board. That's not selling out, it's actually a really smart move. Because the endgame is the same, regardless of where you sit: Stabilize, secure, and safeguard—from trade secrets and company reputation, to precious client data.
Thankfully, timing is prime for both sides to reach out. Media exposés have made us hyperaware of cyber threats, and we're seeing a natural shift among decision makers to view IT maintenance and implementation as an under-tapped source of protection and innovation. And research is bearing this out. A Raytheon / Ponemon survey conducted among IT professionals in various pockets of the globe found growing cyber security awareness among the C-suite to be a "megatrend" for 2015. Reaching through the next three years, "advanced training, more attention from senior leaders and maturing technologies" are positive changes that will effect heightened cyber security readiness. Another happy stat: 64% of surveyed IT leaders see the next three years bringing across-the-board improvements to organizational security. Now that's a feeling to build on. Two birds, one stone, big win for both sides.
So while IT professionals are building bridges to reach middle ground, how can you, as a company decision maker, work toward collective success? Here are some specifics:
While no one's looking for you to be an IT expert, all eyes will be looking at your attitude toward IT matters. Because like it or not, 'trickle-down' happens. And in the ever shifting tide of cyber responsibility, how you handle company security will make a statement, and set the tone for management and staff. But here's the plus—you're no stranger to responsibility. In fact, you rock it, each and every day. So embrace the fact that your company's reputation and ultimate success have a lot to do with how seriously you take IT suggestions. And allow that reality to educate and inform your decisions.
"The best way to avoid miscommunication is to over communicate - early and often." —Tim Ritters, CFO, PureStorage
Deep breath, we can do this. Because at the end of the day, it isn't about who flexed their muscles more successfully, but how departments came together as a team to combat a common foe. And underneath all the apparent frustration, the truth is that both executives and IT experts are fundamentally interested in what's best for the company.
So whether ours is a business- or tech-centric lens, let's shake things up with a healthy paradigm shift. And as we try to work out our biases and blind spots, we'll come to realize that each others' attempts to better the company are both viable, and valuable. Let's embrace the differences that support a dynamic business, and keep in mind that, while we may be working from different angles, it's all toward the same goal: Protection.
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