9 Secrets of Getting Stuff Done in a Big Company

business executives

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Security may be a hot-button issue for business executives, but in an environment of ongoing economic uncertainty, support for security initiatives isn't always easy to come by.

Whatever's standing in the way--be it politics or personal agendas, inflexible budgets or outright adversaries--security professionals need to work hard to loosen the purse strings and get funding for the programs they believe in.

"There's no carte blanche for security," says Roland Cloutier, CSO at ADP, a $10 billion business solutions outsourcer.

"It's an ongoing chore to prioritize our spend, align with business priorities and promote our requirements so we can get that extra dollar to protect the company," he says.

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Dave Cullinane, CISO at online auction giant eBay, agrees. "Where we're spending, what is the risk and what is the appropriate expenditure--all these things put together are making it more challenging to get things approved," he says.

We asked several CSOs (many of them former CSO Compass Award honorees for achievement-filled careers) to tell us their best getting-it-done tips, and we distilled them into nine tactics for getting your security initiatives moving despite numerous obstacles.

1. Do the Math

With funding tighter than ever, it's crucial to present hard numbers on why your project or initiative is important. "If it's just marginally improving the level of security, that's probably not enough," says Richard Gunthner, CSO at Mastercard Worldwide. "There needs to be a return on investment that makes sense."

With so many potential exposures--malware, system threats, new regulations--Cullinane says a big part of his job is calculating a risk picture and quantifying it to show the residual risk and the ROI of your intended fix. "If I can demonstrate that a $6 million investment will result in a $300 million risk reduction, the CFO gets that," Cullinane says. "But you have to prove the initiative will result in that reduction, and quantification is the hard part."

Then, follow up with the results. "It's showing [them], here's where we started, and here's where we came to in a short period of time," Cullinane says. Once you build credibility, the money will come more easily. "I'm giving [the CFO] back $5 for every dollar he gives me, so he's willing to give me more--one of the nice things about security is you can demonstrate that," Cullinane says.

[See CSOonline's exclusive roundup of Security metrics: Critical issues]

One example is a recent investment Cullinane's organization made in advanced malware-detection tools. When Cullinane asked his investigative team to conduct a pilot test to detect any major issues with employee laptops used to work from home, "we found we had a much more significant malware problem than we thought we had, especially targeting people in HR and finance," he says.

This could have resulted in leaked information on organizational changes or planned acquisitions, but by making a small investment in a malware product, the exposure could be drastically reduced, he says. Cullinane also recently made a large investment in intelligence information to focus on major sources of fraud. "It was essential in arresting individual fraudsters and kept our fraud rate down 100 percent more than the investments we made," he says.

Ideally, you should show the investment will close a hole you have in your organization that has resulted in a security lapse tied to a financial loss. If you can't pin it to an internal event, show what happened in another company, preferably in the same industry.

"It shows it's not pie-in-the-sky but can and has happened, and therefore there's a risk that needs to be remedied," Gunthner says. "That makes it much easier to sell."

Present your request for funding in what Cloutier calls "a risk-informed manner."

"Everything can't be important, so we have to show what's important and why," he says. Cloutier works closely with the financial organization to create models of risk impact--how it affects investments, revenues or business-unit financial models--and probability, based on comparisons with others in the industry.

"We use a lot of financials because we're a financially focused company," he says.

2. Show the Business Link

Even if you can't get hard numbers, be sure to request funding only for initiatives that align with current business concerns, Cloutier says.

For instance, if the current business concern is top-line revenue, how can you help do that faster? If it's closing the sales cycle faster, what program can you initiate to speed that up? If the concern is expense reduction, what can security do to reduce fraud and waste?

"If you can articulate that and show a direct link--not just a speech that points to something, but actually show a link--that gets corporate leaders behind your efforts to support them in reaching their goals."

3. Watch Your Language

You won't get far in your spending requests if you don't tune your message to the audience, whether you're presenting your case to the executive board, the IT group or the mailroom staff.

"You should constantly be shifting gears in the way you talk to various prospective customers," says Jason Clark, chief security and strategy officer at Websense, a security solutions provider. "IT cares about operational details, but that's not the same conversation you should have in the boardroom."

Alan Nutes, senior manager of security and incident management at Newell Rubbermaid, echoes this advice. "If you're talking to senior management, use C-level words," he says. "A security professional might say 'loss prevention,' where a C-level [executive] will understand 'asset management.'"

In an executive-level pitch for more firewalls, you might use the metaphor of needing brakes on a car, not for stopping but to go faster safely, Clark suggests. "Or if executives want to bring iPads in, you don't want to be the guy saying, 'No iPads'; it's 'Yes, iPads, but here's an extra piece of software on the network to secure it."

The fact is, most business executives only become concerned about security violations when it's clear how the exposure will affect the top or bottom lines, and it's your job to make that connection for them. When Cloutier's team recently conducted a review of business-process risk, for instance, it discovered its data-monitoring controls were no longer optimal for one unit because of a change in the way the unit was transferring data. To make the case for the technology upgrade that would fix the issue, the team made the link between the security weakness and the unit's ability to get certifications that would allow it to win more contracts.

"We put it in terms the unit would understand," Cloutier says. "They weren't so concerned about the actual security violations, but how it would impact their ability to generate new revenue because certain certifications would not be available to them otherwise." As a result, "they became our number-one business supporter in deploying new technology to remediate it," he says.

Next Page: Planning and politics...

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