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Business-Driven Security: Agile and Project Management in Cybersecurity Optimisation

By Sunil Chahal 05 Dec 2023
Business-Driven Security: Agile and Project Management in Cybersecurity Optimisation

It’s time for companies to batten their cybersecurity defences. Skyrocketing cyber threats make a traditional, reactive approach to security redundant. What’s needed is a proactive and business-driven security strategy. 

Data Speaks in Volumes

An alarming 83% of organisations grappled with multiple data breaches in 2022, according to the IBM Data Breach Report. These breaches are far from mere technical hiccups. They wield substantial financial repercussions.  

The average cost of a breach was an eye-watering $9.44 million last year in the US. More notably, the stock values of publicly traded companies plummeted by 7.5% shortly after falling victim to a cybersecurity incident1. These prove the dire consequences of inadequate security. 

Recalibrating Cybersecurity Measures

Cybersecurity can no longer be relegated to the periphery, especially as the arsenal of cyber threats becomes increasingly sophisticated. It's not a mere IT concern. It’s a business imperative. 

Aligning security endeavours with overarching business objectives lends companies a competitive edge. It reinforces customer trust and fosters an innovative environment. 

Against this backdrop, this article explores how agile practices and project management techniques can serve as catalysts for optimising cybersecurity. It also explains their convergence becomes a powerful symbiosis to enhance an organisation's security posture. 

The Convergence of Cybersecurity, Agile Practices, and Project Management Principles 

There is a yawning chasm of challenges organisations face. The unforgiving velocity of digital transformation makes it hard for security teams to keep pace. Worsening the issue is the complexity of cyber threats and archaic security structures. 

Another critical gap is response readiness. Much of the cybersecurity effort is directed towards prevention and detection, while testing the response playbook is overlooked. A staggering 77% of companies still lack a formal response plan, according to a study by Ponemon2. This is a threat as a delayed, or worse, an ineffectual response can amplify the impact of a security breach, not only in terms of data loss but also in terms of customer trust. 

There’s a third facet. Companies tend to neglect recovery preparedness. It leaves them vulnerable to prolonged downtime, financial losses, and lasting reputational damage. 

Agile Principles: Bridging Gaps in Cybersecurity Transformation 

A way to address these challenges and optimise cybersecurity is by adopting an iterative, incremental approach. Agile methodology deconstructs the traditional cybersecurity digital transformation process into short, manageable stages instead of embarking on a rigid, predefined journey.  

Each phase has a test-and-learn process. So, the cybersecurity team can glean insights and make necessary adjustments to ensure alignment with predefined goals before seamlessly transitioning to the next stage. 

Since change is prioritised, it facilitates a responsive and dynamic approach. If a new project is introduced during the digital transformation, Agile helps security adapt its protections to fit without causing delays. It ensures that cybersecurity measures remain in lockstep with evolving business needs. 

Case in Point 

Consider an organisation that offers an online service. The primary business goal is to create easy-to-use online channels with rich features so they improve customer experiences. Conversely, the objective of the security team is to have protocols that safeguard the system from attacks and protect customer data. 

Often, these aims diverge, leading to misunderstandings, frustrations, and cybersecurity strategies zigging when business goals zag. An agile approach solves this conundrum by forcing the security team to collaborate closely with the product team. 

It dismantles the silos, so there’s better communication and collaboration. Cybersecurity teams understand business needs better and tailor measures accordingly. So, security is woven into product designs from scratch, preempting conflicts. 

Equifax's Agile Transformation 

The tangible impact of agile methodology on cybersecurity is apparent in the case of Equifax. In 2017, a data breach compelled the global credit reporting agency to reassess its security architecture. The crisis catalysed a strategic decision, initiating a three-year digital transformation that led to it becoming the sole cloud-native credit reporting company. 

Equifax implemented agile practices within its vulnerability management process. By continuously assessing and prioritising vulnerabilities using Agile methodologies, the company improved security incident response times. 

The results were remarkable. 

By 2022, Equifax's cybersecurity program had consistently surpassed major industry benchmarks, ranking in the top 1% among technology companies and the top 3% among financial services firms3. This transformation proves that optimised cybersecurity can evolve into a point of strength and a competitive advantage. 

Project Management Techniques for Cybersecurity

An equally effective method for optimising cybersecurity is to apply project management (PM) practices. Structured planning, resource optimisation, and risk management do more than just fortify cybersecurity. It shifts security into a potent instrument to achieve business goals. 

Integrating project management into security digital transformation brings forth a multitude of benefits, not the least of which are higher project completion rates and lower cost overruns. 

A SYNC’D front

Project management helps identify and prioritise security risks that could impact the business. By addressing the most critical risks first, it ensures that security efforts are in sync with what matters most to the business. 

Effective Resource Use

Efficient use of resources like budgets and personnel is another hallmark of project management. Utilising it allows cybersecurity teams to focus efforts on initiatives that directly support the digital transformation goals without the wasteful expenditure of valuable resources. 

Measuring Success

PM practices also instil a culture of clear goals and progress measurement. When companies track key performance indicators (KPIs), they can see how cybersecurity efforts contribute to success. 

Case in point 

An example of the potential of integrating project management practices into cybersecurity transformation is IBM's X-Force Command Center. It employs PM techniques to coordinate security incident response efforts, effectively allocate resources, and minimise the time it takes to resolve an incident. 

It’s particularly committed to continuous improvement. Wendi Whitmore, Vice President of IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence, emphasises that cybersecurity preparedness is an ongoing journey. Testing, practising, and reassessing response plans repeatedly are paramount. 

The Blueprint for Aligning Cybersecurity and Business Goals

Digitisation is unfolding everywhere. It has fundamentally altered the cybersecurity landscape. Now, there are only two certainties. Products and services will become increasingly digital, demanding tighter security. Two, business environments will continue to be more dynamic. 

In this milieu, agility and structure are paramount. 

Organisations need to rethink cybersecurity as not a hurdle but a gateway to success. To do so, the adoption of a business-driven security framework that harmoniously melds agile and project management principles becomes a compelling imperative for survival. 

Reference Literature:

1Infosecurity Magazine. 2019. "Companies' Stock Value Dropped 7.5% after Data Breaches." 

2IBM Newsroom. 2019. "More Than Half of Organizations with Cybersecurity Incident Response Plans Fail to Test Them."

3Equifax. 2022. "annual-report"