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How to secure digital transformation initiatives

Securing digital transformation is paramount in today’s fast-paced technological landscape. As organizations embark on digitalization journeys, they open new doors to efficiency, agility, and innovation. However, this transformation also unveils an array of cybersecurity challenges. This article will dive deep into the critical intersection of digital transformation and cybersecurity. We’ll explore how businesses can navigate this complex terrain, ensuring that their pursuit of innovation remains firmly grounded in robust security measures. Join us as we uncover strategies, best practices, and insights to safeguard your digital future while harnessing its full potential.

Why secure digital transformation?

The significance of cybersecurity in digital transformation cannot be overstated. As highlighted by Deloitte, cybersecurity is not merely a protective barrier but a driving force that propels organizations toward new business opportunities. In an era where businesses across diverse industries tirelessly work to enhance customer-facing products’ quality and engagement, cybersecurity is a pressing concern. It should no longer be perceived as a novel risk but as an integral component of the business equation, on par with other essential considerations.

Digital transformation fundamentally alters how businesses operate and deliver outcomes like any substantial organizational shift. Companies often decentralize certain shared services or components while centralizing automated processes that can be leveraged for scalability and speed in today’s fiercely competitive business landscape. In this transformational landscape, cybersecurity assumes a multifaceted role. While it integrates into these evolving narratives, it is essential to acknowledge that, just as the transformation of infrastructure, development, and engineering practices is a gradual process, so is the integration of robust cybersecurity measures. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and organizations must tailor their cybersecurity strategies to align with their unique digital transformation journeys.

Decentralizing cybersecurity

Decentralizing the cybersecurity function, or parts of it, as part of a transformation strategy, usually comes packed with two underlying motives: resource management and controlling cybersecurity outcomes.

Managing resources

The first motive is an easy pill to swallow, it essentially means that the business needs more of what the cybersecurity team delivers. People hear about cybersecurity risk, get it, and agree, but the perception is that it is still very hard to stay secure and compliant. The question to address the first motive is, “How can we manage and prioritize our cybersecurity talent to keep up with the pace and urgency that digital product teams need?”

Controlling outcomes

The second motive has spread many cybersecurity teams thin: critical controls and requirements not being implemented, monitoring and detection services going unchecked, and eventually team burnout. If the cybersecurity team in a company today thinks they don’t have enough resources to secure the enterprise, breaking these teams up and devolving decision-making exacerbates the scale problem.

In certain environments, this second motive comes from a place where the path of least resistance is seen as better than the status quo even if it comes with increased cybersecurity risk to the business. Digital product teams are often accountable exclusively for delivering products and experiences quickly, while security is a constraint they must manage. While some feel that by decentralizing cybersecurity in hopes of creating a less resistant path, we inadvertently spread accountability everywhere. Without a single accountable owner for cybersecurity at the enterprise level – when an incident happens, it leads to finger-pointing.

This second motive is more common when a business needs smaller, vertically integrated teams to deliver improved customer, member, and stakeholder experiences. The need for improved experiences makes sense – why transform if we’re not going to move faster, better, more competent? We wouldn’t build a house faster and skimp on the soundness and safety of the design; that wouldn’t make the house better, and we wouldn’t be smarter for going that route.

These transformations are a huge opportunity for integrating cybersecurity into a product-focused transformation in a better way than in the past, and the following factors should be considered closely:

The need for cybersecurity governance

If some more initiatives and teams need cybersecurity focus and attention, aligning our governance practices will help the cybersecurity organization scale. Simply put, we need to answer 3 simple questions for every domain that requires governance and oversight:

    1. Are we doing the right things? Do we have reasonable requirements laid out in a clear way with accountability built in?
    2. Are we doing the right things right? Are we actually doing what we’ve outlined as requirements for business product teams and stakeholders?
    3. How do we know? How are we measuring and monitoring our adherence to the reasonable requirements? What tools, services, or processes have been implemented to outline the requirement? The requirement should be re-evaluated if there’s no way to monitor for internal compliance.

If the cybersecurity team is going to decentralize, then there needs to be appropriate governance and oversight to prevent the drift of requirements and controls being met. Consider assigning risk managers to each of the organizations where cybersecurity professionals will be embedded for periods to ensure that the right amount of governance is in place, that risk isn’t increasing without being discussed, and that the end customer’s cybersecurity expectations are being met.

Integration speed will vary.

How fast can we integrate cybersecurity into product development and delivery? That depends on several factors:

Scaling the org without dimming the lights
    • We can’t sacrifice “keep the lights on” (KLO) cybersecurity activities that the organization now needs to be healthy. Assess the risk of outsourcing or no longer performing manual or low-value KLO activities so you can organizationally scale to do what only “we” can do.
Process maturity
    • If a needed cybersecurity process isn’t mature, it more than likely can’t be repeated with consistent results. Lack of consistency can turn into varied outcomes. Varied outcomes can show up as operational misses or data breaches.
    • Work to mature processes to a documented, repeatable, and measured state so that risk isn’t increased when or if decentralization occurs.
Monitoring & detection controls
    • Scaling the cybersecurity team requires we can still see what we used to see, on top of doing and seeing more.
    • If our monitoring and detection controls aren’t optimized, scaling the team will only strain our ability to see and respond to what we’ve always been expected to do.
Incident response & business resilience
    • Incident response and resilience for cybersecurity are non-negotiable. We have to be able to identify problems and respond to them in a structured, managed way.
    • Incident response has to be practiced, measured, and learned from.
    • If the cybersecurity team is going to be more tightly integrated into business product and process development, it needs to have its own resilience monitored and reported on regularly since it’s pivotal to delivering a product that customers want.

Incorporating these critical considerations into your organization’s digital strategy can help to make cybersecurity an integral part of your product transformation.

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