Most organisations today understand the critical importance of cyber security and privacy protection to their business. Many are commencing major uplift programs, or at least considering how they should get started.

These projects inevitably carry high expectations because of what’s at stake. They’re also inherently complex and impact many parts of the organisation. Converting the effort and funding that goes into these projects into success and sustained improvement to business-as-usual practices is rarely straightforward.

Drawing on our collective experiences working on significant cyber security and privacy uplift programs across the globe, in a variety of industries, here’s what we believe are key elements to success.

1. Secure a clear executive mandate

Your uplift program is dealing with critical risks to your organisation. The changes you will seek to drive through these programs will require cooperation across may parts of your organisation and potentially partners and third parties too. A mandate and sponsorship from your executive is critical.

Think strategically about who else you need on-side, beyond your board and executive committee. Build an influence map and identify potential enablers and detractors, and engage early. Empower your program leadership team and business leadership from affected areas to make timely decisions and deliver their mandate.

2. Adopt a customer and human-centric approach

Uplift programs need to focus on people change as well as changes to processes and technology. Success in this space very often comes down to changing behaviours and ensuring the organisation has sufficient capacity to manage the new technology and process outputs (eg how to deal with incidents).

We therefore suggest that you adopt a customer and human-centric approach. Give serious time, attention and resourcing to areas including communications planning, organisational change management, stakeholder engagement, training and awareness.

3. Know the business value of what you are going to deliver and articulate it

An opaque or misaligned understanding of what a security or privacy program is meant to deliver is often the source of its undoing. It is crucial to ensure scope is clear and aligned to the executive mandate.

Define the value and benefits of your uplift program early, communicate them appropriately and find a way to demonstrate this value over time. Be sure to speak in terms the business understands, not just new technologies or capabilities you will roll-out for instance, what risks have you mitigated?

You can’t afford to be shy. Ramp up the PR to build recognition about your program and its value among staff, executive and board members. Think about branding.

4. Prioritise the foundational elements

If you’re in an organisation where security and privacy risks have been neglected, but now have a mandate for broad change, you can fall into the trap of trying to do too much at once.

Think of this as being your opportunity to get the groundwork in place for your future vision. Regardless of whether the foundational elements are technology or process related, most with tenure in your organisation know which of them need work. From our experience, those same people will also understand the importance of getting them right and in most cases would be willing to help you fix them.

As a friendly warning, don’t be lured down the path of purchasing expensive solutions without having the right groundwork in place. Most, if not all of these solutions rely on such foundations.

5. Deliver your uplift as a program

For the best results, deliver your uplift as a dedicated change program rather than through BAU.

Your program will of course need to work closely with BAU teams to ensure the sustained success of the program. Have clear and agreed criteria with those teams on the transition to BAU. Monitor BAU teams’ preparation and readiness as part of your program.

6. Introduce an efficient governance and decision making process

Robust and disciplined governance is critical. Involve key stakeholders, implement clear KPIs and methods of measurement, and create an efficient and responsive decision-making process to drive your program.

Governance can be light touch provided the right people are involved and the executive supports them. Ensure you limit the involvement of “passengers” on steering groups who aren’t able to contribute and make sure representatives from BAU are included

7. Have a ruthless focus on your strategic priorities

These programs operate in the context of a fast-moving threat and regulatory landscape. Things change rapidly and there will be unforeseen challenges.

It’s important to be brave and assured in holding to your strategic priorities. Avoid temptation to succumb to tactical “quick fixes” that solve short-term problems but bring long-term pain.

8. Build a high-performance culture and mindset for those delivering the program

These programs are hard but can be immensely satisfying and career-defining for those involved. Investing in the positivity, pride and engagement of your delivery team will pay immense dividends.

Seek to foster a high-performance culture, enthusiasm, tolerance and collaboration. Create an environment that is accepting of creativity and experimentation.

9. Be cognisant of the skills shortage and plan accordingly

While your project may be well funded, don’t be complacent about the difficulties accessing skilled people to achieve the goals of your project. Globally, the security and privacy industries continue to suffer severe short-ages in skilled professionals. Build these into your forecasts and expectations, and think laterally about the use of partners.

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