I am glad that Arnette posted some of his thoughts over the past week on the importance of the Chief Security Officer’s relationship with his or her colleagues at the functional level.  The points he makes – with respect to the CSO’s relationship to the CFO and, in a separate post, to counsel advising the corporation on tax matters related to executive protection – are ones we emphasize continuously.  The CSO really has to be highly effective at building bridges of mutual support with functional leaders across the enterprise.

One of the most vital of these relationships, of course, is with the CIO.

The CSO and CIO Need to Get Better at “Connecting the Dots”

I’ll make this short.  But this is really important.  When a company opens its doors and invites us in to assess its corporate security or investigative programs, help find a new CSO or plan the implementation of a new program area, we often find growing challenges – and opportunities, for that matter. Among the most common and strategic of these is the need for increased collaboration and information sharing between security and investigative programs and other departments.  We referenced this earlier this year, in our blog on Top Trends in 2014 for Corporate Investigations.  I think these are well worth revisiting because so many CSOs and IT leaders, including the CIO, could do a better job at “connecting the dots” across in-house sources of support, information sharing and intelligence.

Fixing the Problem Requires Understanding Its Roots

Very often, the company has recently merged with, sold or acquired entities and, for one reason or another, defaulted back to a “bolt-on” approach to merging security and investigative teams, capabilities and infrastructure. When an appropriate level of integration across technical systems has not been undertaken, the CSO cannot effectively meet his or her mission and the CIO has a major headache.  On a near-weekly basis, our security program assessment teams at Hillard Heintze uncover challenges related to the poor integration of systems such as case management databases, incident reporting systems, access control infrastructure and CCTV networks as well as communications and command-and-control capabilities. Another reason stands outside of the scope of this blog – and the CIO can’t help fix it – but almost just as often, the dysfunction starts at the top: in the organizational chart.  We often find that several different executives hold conflicting or overlapping responsibility for key security and investigative areas that really should be tasked solely to the CSO. 

Two Recommendations: One Each for the CSO and the CIO

  • Chief Security Officer: Provide the CIO with Timely Notice and an Actionable Window to Provide Support: The chances are that you weren’t hired for your IT-related insights and as a result, you may not intuitively understand matters that impact the CIO’s mission.  One of these, for example, is the importance of alerting the IT leader to your new priorities and initiatives, many of which have critical IT-related implications you may not fully anticipate.  Make a point of regularly briefing the CIO on current issues, trends and challenges emerging on your dashboard.  View your CIO as an internal trusted advisor.  Find ways to thread their insights and counsel into your success.  And when you win, turn and give a portion of the credit to your colleague.
  • Chief Information Officer: Look Beyond the Technical Boundaries of the IT Domain and Build Up a Layered Understanding of the Processes the CSO Relies Upon: You are head-and-shoulders beyond your CIO predecessors a decade ago in terms of the expectations placed upon you by the CEO and your company’s board.  You wouldn’t have this job if you were merely a brilliant technologist with a narrowly scoped view of technology’s promises and road traps.  You are hired – and hopefully compensated –based on your ability to understand how IT supports your business.  And when the CSO does an outstanding job of protecting the company’s people, performance and reputation, you should have a place in the sun and stand tall.  Connect with your CSO.  Listen, learn and share. Then innovate together.