5 principles of selling security initiatives to executives

Software tools and technology can only go so far, and automation of a specific capability is often just a point solution for a niche problem.

In the world of data leaks and cybercrime, why is it that selling information security is considered a hard task? Is it because information security is pitched as a tool—buy software and it will fix everything—or is there a lack of understanding about what a healthy information security posture will achieve for an organisation.

Security vendors make the rounds trying to impress executives with some of the latest technology. Once implemented it solves all an organisation’s information security problems — well not really. Software tools and technology can only go so far, and automation of a specific capability is often just a point solution for a niche problem.

This creates a never-ending saga: ‘we have a security problem’, ‘we need to buy a tool’, ‘CIO/CFO/CEO gives the security team more money’. This approach has a limited life, implementing security tools doesn’t improve the security posture of the organisation, and over time, executives tend to resist every demand that come from security.

Most of us have lived through the pain of SAR-BOX—what a killer it was. Audit and security was king, which left executives exhausted from spending on soap opera security projects, the never-ending issues were a giant black hole.

Then the economy bombed out. Money for security became scarce and every dollar had to be justified. Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) factors which had worked for the last decade, suddenly became obsolete. Security was being asked to be justify its spending and executives started asking questions about its business impact and effectiveness.

As a result, experience has taught us that these questions can be answered by following five principles:

  1. Align spend to your organisation’s Information Security Management System (ISMS) or Security Strategy and Roadmap
  2. Align security spend to compliance issues reported and recorded.
  3. Show how each dollar spent on security will address existing business risk and help improve the organisations operating risk posture.
  4. Standardise and consolidate tooling capability such that technology is fit for purpose and fit for use.
  5. Demonstrate a return on security investment (ROSI) through metrics either qualitative or quantitative.

These principles will help provide context to security spending, it can be justified. If it is decided that budget is not available, as a security professional you have responsibly informed your colleagues about the risk they have accepted by not implementing the proposed measures, they can make an informed decision based on facts and not FUD.

Sell security to executives as a measure to manage organisational and operational risk with clear metrics and finite timelines. Like anything, the more you do it the easier it becomes.

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