David Kelleher Profile

David Kelleher

May 29, 2023

David Kelleher Profile

David Kelleher

May 29, 2023

The security divide: Why C-level and IT teams don’t always agree on security

Cybersecurity has become an essential element of business operations however IT teams and C-level executives often have different perspectives and priorities when it comes to security, leading to misalignment and gaps in communication.

IT teams may feel that the C-level executives do not understand the importance of security, while C-level executives may view IT teams as a cost centre that is always asking for larger IT and security budgets without considering the broader financial implications.

Same goals, different concerns

There are a few reasons why security may be a challenge in the boardroom.

Role and responsibilities are different

C-level executives and management are primarily concerned with the impact of security on business outcomes, including risk reduction, regulatory compliance, and reputation enhancement. They view security as a crucial aspect of business operations that can have an impact on the organisation’s bottom line. Their top priority is ensuring that the organisation meets regulatory requirements, avoids negative publicity, and prevents reputational damage. On the other hand, IT teams are mainly focused on the technical aspects of security, such as implementing policies, procedures, and tools to safeguard the organisation's data and systems. They dedicate their time to patching systems, implementing firewalls, and anti-virus software. While these measures are essential for protecting digital assets, they may be too technical and complex for non-IT professionals to fully comprehend.

Lack of understanding and communication

One common reason for issues in IT security is the lack of understanding and effective communication channels between management and IT teams. Management may not possess a comprehensive understanding of the technical complexities of IT security, while IT teams may be unaware of the business implications and priorities of management. This absence of mutual comprehension, due to inadequate communication, frequently results in conflicting priorities and a shortage of resources.

Cost vs investment

Another reason for the disconnect is the perception of IT security as a cost, rather than an investment. Many C-level executives view IT security as a necessary expense, rather than a strategic investment that can drive business growth and success. This can lead to a lack of buy-in and support from management for IT security initiatives, causing IT security to be underfunded and understaffed. IT teams may also assume that management ‘knows’ why they are requesting additional budget or a new system or software when management do not have enough information or knowledge to help them take a decision.

Business goals are not aligned

While management is focused on accomplishing business goals such as enhancing revenue, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction, IT security prioritises technical objectives such as avoiding breaches, identifying incidents, and mitigating risks. These conflicting perspectives and goals often create tension and misunderstandings. For example, management may be interested in exploring business opportunities or innovations that IT security may consider risky or unfeasible. Conversely, IT security may emphasise increasing resources or expenses to tackle the growing threats and complexity, while management aims to minimise expenses.

Lack of awareness on security

The technical jargon utilised by IT teams may be overly complex for C-level executives to comprehend, causing them to overlook the significance of security measures. Management may not be informed about the most recent threats and technologies, while IT may not possess the resources or expertise to keep up with the latest advancements. Consequently, this can result in a lack of confidence in IT security and a lack of trust in IT's capacity to safeguard the business.

Risk tolerance

IT teams may have a low-risk tolerance and may want to implement strict security measures that may impact business operations. In contrast, C-level executives may have a higher risk tolerance and may view security as a trade-off between risk mitigation and operational efficiency.

Bridging the divide

To bridge this gap, IT teams and C-level executives need to establish a common language and understanding of security. They need to align their goals and expectations and collaborate effectively on security initiatives.

Key message

IT security is not only a technical issue but also a business issue. IT security and compliance should be integrated into the company's overall strategy. By aligning IT security with business goals, the company can proactively anticipate and mitigate risks and make better-informed decisions. This can also help to align the IT security budget with the overall budget and reduce the chances of a budget cut.

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities

IT and management need to work together to develop a security framework that ensures all stakeholders are aware of their roles and responsibilities in case of a security incident. Other teams, such as legal and HR, need to be involved.

Security training and awareness

Every executive at management level should receive security awareness training that covers the basics of cybersecurity, such as phishing, malware, and social engineering. Tailored to their roles and responsibilities, training should include examples of security breaches and their impact on an organisation.

Communicate often

Regular communication is a must when it comes to security. The IT lead should be present in management meetings and explain what is being done on security, the latest threats, risks, and solutions. This builds trust and makes it easier for management to sign-off on any technology or actions needed to improve security. Security should also be discussed at Board level. That way, security is treated a top-level priority.

Many of the challenges facing IT teams can be addressed if they clearly communicated their requirements and concerns to management. Talk to one of BMIT’s experts TODAY to learn how we can help you bridge the ‘security divide’ and optimise your business’s security posture.

Read next