The profession of chief information security officer is a fairly new position in the corporate world. The role of CISO has only been around for about 25 years, but the position has become more prominent within the last decade due to the importance of cybersecurity. Understanding the CISO duties and responsibilities is important in providing your business with the highest level of protection against cybersecurity threats.
More Than Technical Skills
The role of a CISO in the workplace isn’t as clear-cut as other C-suite positions. One reason for the lack of clarity is due to other competing roles, whether it’s chief security, technology, or chief information officer. Each business is different, as a CISO may report to the CEO, or their direct contact might be the CIO.
The confusion of CISO responsibilities often originates from the idea of the role solely focusing on technical challenges. However, CISO duties and responsibilities include much more than a focus on technology, whether it’s offering business advice, setting enterprise goals, or being a voice of reason. Finding a CISO with all of these traits isn’t an easy task due to the importance of needing a variety of skills.
The Evolving Role of the Chief Information Officer
All of these CISO responsibilities can make a big impact in the workplace. Finding the right CISO is a great way to transform your business operations while also providing your company with a much higher level of security.
CISO responsibilities initially began around 1995, as the main focus was staying in compliance and taking care of IT-related duties between 1995-2005. Afterward, the CISO responsibilities evolved into a focus on procedures, policies, and frameworks. These duties lasted around ten years, which was between 2005-2015. However, now a CISO handles numerous duties, such as identity and access management, cloud computing, mobile strategy, mergers, and business operations.
The role of a CISO continues to evolve, as they take on a lot more responsibility in the workplace compared to the mid-90s.
So, what does a CISO need to do to succeed in today’s workplace?
A CISO Needs a Broad Range of Skills
Many people are still under the false impression that a CISO needs to have amazing technical skills to succeed. However, that is only one small piece of the puzzle, as a CISO also has a large leadership role. While having technical knowledge is important, a CISO needs a much broader range of non-technical skills to become successful.
How to Be a Successful CISO
A CISO needs a specific skill set to be a success in today’s work environment. These skills include understanding business operations, having superior communication skills, knowing cybersecurity best practices, a strong background in governance, and human resource management. All of these skills play a key role in enabling a CISO to succeed in today’s challenging work environment.
Here are a few more important duties for a CISO.
Data Disaster Recovery Plan and Cybersecurity Best Practices
The loss of data due to a cyber attack is a major problem for businesses. A CISO needs to create a pre and post-event planning process to limit the impact of data loss. Creating a business continuity plan will allow your organization to quickly react to a wide range of scenarios and limit the impact of data loss. A CISO will need to continue to test and make modifications to this plan to ensure your business is always well-prepared.
Background in IT and Security Architecture
Another important duty for a CISO is to have a background in IT and security architecture. Understanding these responsibilities enables a CISO to navigate the maintenance or financial needs of an information security program. A technical background can also help minimize downtime and ensure everyone is working together in the IT department.
Knowledge of Risk and Compliance Issues
Staying in compliance with various laws is essential for businesses. A failure to maintain compliance can result in expensive penalties and damage your reputation. A CISO needs to understand risk and compliance issues while developing policies and procedures to maintain agreement with these regulations.
It’s All About Developing a Culture
A recent survey showed that 63% of respondents believe that culture will be one of the top five responsibilities for a CISO. In other words, CISO duties and responsibilities will be more focused on soft skills instead of tech-related matters.
Maintaining a successful information security program requires two things, which include buy-in from executive leaders and buy-in from employees. Understanding how to get everyone working together is one of the top CISO responsibilities.
The key to communicating with executive leaders is to speak their language. For example, focusing on vulnerability assessments and threat intelligence reports won’t get you very far with executive leadership. The biggest key in communicating with stakeholders is for a CISO to translate these reports and assessments into actions. Ultimately, this means you will highlight how your work will save money or provide a return on investment.
Demonstrating tangible value to executives will significantly increase the chance of them supporting your efforts. However, winning over board members is a much easier task than winning over employees, as it requires plenty of skills in change management.
How to Get Buy-In for Your Plan
Change management is often a difficult task, whether you are working with a small or large team. There is no foolproof method to handle changes in the workplace, as much of it depends on the culture and vision of your business. However, there are a few principles to follow in helping your business manage changes, such as creating a plan to help your company during this transition period. Providing resources and focusing on communication are also critical aspects in getting employees to buy-in for your plan.
Always Back-Up Your Words With Action
One of the keys to success for a CISO is to back-up words with action. On the other hand, employees are much less likely to buy-in to changes if they see you talking a good game but never following through with your plan. Doing what you plan to do will make a big impact on each employee, whether you are looking at ways to improve your disaster recovery plan, focus on cybersecurity awareness, or any other activity requiring a change in the workplace.
Always following through with your plans is especially important in the world of cybersecurity, as employees are often the weakest link. For example, highlighting cybersecurity best practices for workers will reduce the chance of a data breach while also educating your employees on how to stay secure against an ever-evolving number of cyber threats in the workplace.
How the CISO can Overcome Challenges
Dealing with resistance to change is a common challenge for a CISO. One way to handle this resistance is to show the value of making these changes and how they can benefit a stakeholder or an employee. Keeping a few questions in mind is a great way to overcome resistance, such as how these changes impact the business or what will happen if everything stays the same. A CISO will first need to identify the source of resistance to appeal to emotional intelligence, whether it’s social awareness, self-management, self-awareness, or social management.
How to Transition into a Premier Executive for Cybersecurity
Being an effective CISO requires more than technical expertise, as remaining dynamic and having a diverse skill set is essential to maintaining long-term success. A CISO wears a variety of hats, as these duties are much more involved compared to a few years ago. Knowing how to manage business continuity and disaster recovery, cybersecurity awareness, and tech changes are only a few examples of the many responsibilities of a CISO.
Technical skills will always remain important in getting tasks done, but the job of a CISO requires much more than tech expertise. Remembering soft skills and not being afraid to get out of your comfort zone are all critical aspects of becoming a successful CISO. Ultimately, employing a few of these suggestions above is a great way to up your game and be a valuable asset for your business.
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