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Crossing the Great Divide

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One of the biggest corporate communication challenges of our time – bridging the gap between business and technical leaders. With over 30 years experience in the IT and Cyber Security industry, Bret has identified two gaps in which we should identify, and a simple tree-step process on closing this gap.

Cybersecurity highlights one of the biggest corporate communication challenges of our time – bridging the gap between business and technical leaders.  I call this the great divide.  As Operational Technology and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) becomes pervasive, cybersecurity (“cyber”) is increasingly being recognised as the business risk it truly represents, especially for industrial companies who are just now fully arriving at the cyber party.  With the proliferation of IIoT, predictive analytics and autonomous vehicles, the divide is becoming more acute and can materially impact the bottom-line.

As someone who has spent more than 30 years in business and technology in a largely industrial context, I’ve seen the issue from all perspectives. The divide is driven by a variety of factors that can be grouped into two buckets:

  • Orientation/language – the business side is focused on earnings and growth and talks in terms of digital transformation; whereas, the technology side focuses on assessing, installing and maintaining the IT infrastructure and talks in terms of cloud migration, firewalls and NIST audits. 
  • Personality types – it’s overly simplistic, but it comes down to one side being comfortable with face-to-face verbal communication and the other preferring any other mode (email, texts, anything electronic).

As cyber pervades the day-to-day operations of the business, technical leaders find themselves in the limelight in a way they never were before.  Once cyber becomes a business imperative, technical leaders regularly meet with the CEO and COO, people with whom they may have traditionally met once a year at most.

Here is a very simple, three-step process to begin your journey of closing the divide:

  1. Establish a common ground – acknowledge the gap and establish that cyber is a business imperative and needs to be managed as such. Creating a high-level dashboard that both sides understand and in which all find value is a good step.
  2. Leverage safety analogy – for industrial companies (to whom this blog is targeted) cyber has many parallels to safety, and leveraging those can be very helpful for all parties.  A note of caution... use this analogy carefully as safety is a life-or-death issue, and cyber is not (except in very rare cases).
  3. Utilise a facilitator – both sides can benefit from a respected “third party” that understands and is respected by both sides. This is often someone involved in transformation (from digital or traditional change management) who speaks both languages.
Good luck crossing that divide!

About the authors

Edwina Ring