Abacode Blog - How the CEO and BOD Can Finally Own Their Cybersecurity and Compliance Program

How the CEO and BOD Can Finally Own Their Cybersecurity and Compliance Program

Michael Ferris | Minute Read

The days of relegating cybersecurity to the technical team are over.  Just as customer experience evolved into a competitive differentiator and a C-Suite priority over the past decade, the same thing is occurring in regard to cybersecurity and compliance. In fact, for any company that wants to successfully compete going forward, I believe the Board of Directors (BOD) and the CEO will need to take an extremely active role with these initiatives.

By elevating cybersecurity and compliance as a strategic priority, an organization will develop a core competency that accelerates customer and market acquisition and defends and retains existing customers. I can’t think of any board member or C-Suite leader who wouldn’t see net-new sales and client retention as crucial to sustaining and growing their business.

Transform Your Cybersecurity and Compliance Program Into a Competitive Advantage

What does taking an active role mean?  It means if you are on the board or you are in the C-Suite, you’ll want to work alongside your technical and advisory teams to understand how to leverage your cybersecurity and compliance capabilities to proactively make and support critical business decisions. This requires you to be fully engaged in the governance, strategy, and implementation process.  Leaders may think they’re doing this, but I can tell you from my experience this is not the case.

Having been a chairman and a CEO for a large national company and also part of a $14B private equity group, I understand the levels the governance, the correct checks and balances, and the protocols a business needs to have in place when it comes to cybersecurity and compliance. I also know from my personal experience and the many conversations with peers like you, that the majority of BOD and C-Suite members are not technical people.  So, when non-technical leaders are having conversations with their head of IT, their advisory practice, and/or their outsource IT about cybersecurity and compliance, it can become a very confusing discussion.

Often resulting in deciding to relegate the initiative to the technical teams.  This is a mistake.

Not only is it a costly mistake, it often results in leaders not having the information they need to make good decisions which ultimately increases the organization’s risk exposure. Therefore, it is imperative that leaders engage in the right conversation. The future of the organization depends on it.  And I believe that those leaders who wrap their hands tightly around the cybersecurity and compliance conversation will be able to use cybersecurity and compliance to outperform their competitors.

Five Initial Steps Every C-Suite Member Should Take

How do you do that? At Abacode, we recommend five initial steps.

  • First, you must make a mental shift in how you think about cybersecurity. This shift entails moving from thinking of cybersecurity and compliances as defensive moves to thinking of them as a competitive advantage. Once you do this, you’ll look at cybersecurity through a different lens.
  • Second, you must make and invest in a plan that will enable you to proactively engage with your clients/customers, your partners, your financial backers and inform them of how you are using cybersecurity and compliance to stay ahead of the curve and deliver additional value.
  • Third, more than likely you’ll need additional expertise to help you and your IT team implement a plan and a program. Whether you choose a partner like Abacode or someone else, find a partner whose sole operating focus is cybersecurity and compliance. Why? Because cybersecurity and compliance are complex and dynamic. In addition, this provides your business the right level of checks and balances, similar to tax and audit.  Select a partner who will help you stay on the cutting edge and ahead of the curve on both fronts. Doing this requires relentless dedication and investment by anyone who is going to be in this space. You cannot afford for your partner to be distracted.
  • Fourth, you need to integrate your internal customer-facing teams, that includes your salespeople, your account management people, your customer success and service people, into the process. All of these individuals are communicating with your prospective and current customers. Data is today’s business currency. Therefore, your customer-facing teams need to know how to communicate how your cybersecurity and compliances practices adds customer value and creates peace of mind in knowing that all of their customer data is protected.
  • Lastly, it is essential to put the right governance in place and have the right reporting and dashboards at your fingertips. You should ask yourself many questions, including but not limited too; Do we have visibility into any compliance standards required for our industry, geography or data-flow chain?  If we aren’t’ required to meet a compliance standard, should we still adopt one anyway? Do we actually currently have a Cybersecurity and Compliance Program or just a lot of initiatives, products and spend?  Do we have the right separation of duties in and checks & balances in place to mitigate our exposure?

I’d like to close with what I wrote at the start of this post. It is time for every Chairman, CEO, COO, CFO, CRO and Board member to become fully engaged in the cybersecurity and compliance conversation and to shape the implementation into a strategic priority. I’d strongly advise that your cybersecurity and compliance decisions no longer be left up to the head of IT or your outsourced IT partners, alone.  You can gain incredible insight and control over your cyber-risk and maturity if you engage the right resources and begin the process now.