Cio and ciso

How the CIO and CISO Can Both Contribute to Digital Transformation

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Both the CIO and CISO must play a role in digital transformation efforts, especially as organizations become more technology-driven and digitally mature.

The more that companies migrate to cloud-based technology, for instance, the more crucial it is to ensure that digital assets remain protected.


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Below, we’ll explore the roles that both CIOs and CISOs must play when adopting new technology and technology-driven business models.

CIO and CISO: Roles in Digital Transformation Compared

Both CIOs and CISOs must collaborate closely to ensure that digital transformation efforts are implemented successfully and safely. 

As organizations evolve – and as cyber threats become more sophisticated – it is important for both leaders to take a more prominent role in leading digital initiatives.

CIOs as Digital Transformation Leaders

CIOs have traditionally been responsible for managing and maintaining IT operations. 

While this remains true, the CIO’s role is evolving. 

Many CIOs, for instance, identify as transformational CIOs, according to research from IDG.

More and more frequently, CIOs are being required to:

  • Design, govern, and lead digital transformation efforts
  • Spearhead digital innovation
  • Lead culture change efforts
  • Take on other IT-related responsibilities aside from IT service management (ITSM), including cybersecurity

The exact nature of the CIO’s responsibilities will vary from organization to organization, of course. The larger the organization is, the more it will hire specialists to handle certain IT functions, such as cybersecurity.

CISOs Must Safeguard Digital Growth

Digital transformation introduces more complexity into an organization’s digital ecosystem, which makes IT systems more vulnerable to intrusion. 

For instance, vulnerabilities come with the adoption of:

  • Remote working tools 
  • Cloud-based IT infrastructure
  • New business software

In addition to the security vulnerabilities that come with new tools, it is also important to pay attention to people. 

For example, many cybersecurity problems arise not from security flaws in the tools themselves, but in how people use those tools. Remote working, for instance, opens up new issues around security, data privacy, and so forth.

CISOs, therefore, must work with other senior leaders to not only implement security-related software, they must also implement new security protocols and procedures.

How the CIO and CISO Can Work Together to Safeguard Digital Growth

In organizations that employ both CIOs and CISOs, both senior leaders must work together to ensure that new tools are implemented securely and successfully.

Here are a few actions that both leaders can take to maintain cybersecurity as their organizations become more digitally mature:

  • Cultivate a security-conscious workplace culture. Employees must understand the security risks that come with the digital workplace. This is especially important today, when remote working has become commonplace. Since many security breaches come as a result of preventable mishaps, employees should be trained on cybersecurity best practices.
  • Invest in cybersecurity solutions as the organization becomes more digitally mature. It should go without saying that, as the organization adopts new technology, it is important to simultaneously adopt new security solutions. After all, as mentioned, increased complexity in the IT infrastructure correlates with increased security risks.
  • Establish a dialogue with other senior executives. Both the CIO and CISO should be involved in discussions around IT investments, regardless of which department is doing the investing. Each new investment should be reviewed by IT leaders and security professionals, as well as other necessary departments, such as risk management.
  • Collaborate closely with legal, compliance, and risk management. Security breaches can be very damaging to an organization’s reputation as well as its finances. And in many industries, there are government regulations that could impact compliance and security. As an organization scales up its digital efforts, CISOs, CIOs, and other IT leaders should work closely to ensure that they are managing risk appropriately and adhering to government regulations.
  • Build security and privacy into the design of new business processes. Security by design and privacy by design should become the new norm when engaging in digital transformation efforts. This will require cooperation and buy-in from other C-suite executives, so IT leaders should establish working relationships with other senior business leaders, as mentioned above.
  • Encourage CIOs and CISOs to take leadership of digital transformation initiatives. Research from Tata Consultancy Services revealed that the most successful digital transformation programs are those led by CIOs. The companies that were the most successful in their survey, for instance, allowed CIOs to participate in the ideation, development, governance, and execution of digital initiatives. Given the importance of cybersecurity, it is also a good idea to bring CISOs on board as well.

Ultimately, for today’s technology-driven organization, it is crucial to incorporate cybersecurity into the heart of the business, from the workplace culture to cybersecurity software.

Final Thoughts

The CIO and CISO can both contribute to the success of digital transformation initiatives – and as businesses become more dependent on digital technology, security will become more important than ever.

IT has already become a competitive differentiator in the modern business. 

In the years ahead, it will become even more central to an organization’s performance, so CIOs and CISOs should work together to ensure that security and privacy remain foremost on the C-suite’s agenda.

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