Why Project Management is Essential for Successful Cybersecurity Projects
This article is part 1 of our series “A Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Cybersecurity Projects”.
Are you wondering how project management can really help you execute your cybersecurity projects? How a well-oiled project management machine can add value to your cybersecurity strategy, all while improving your return on investment and fostering customer retention? And, most importantly, how you can make the case for a cybersecurity project management function?
If you are responsible for handling cybersecurity projects in your organization, chances are that you know how challenging it can be to manage all cybersecurity projects smoothly and effectively. You are overseeing a variety of one-time and recurring cybersecurity tasks all while taking care of your day-to-day responsibilities and long-term priorities.
For cybersecurity projects to be effective, IT and security professionals need to implement a solid project management practice. An experienced project management team can help ensure that your projects are executed smoothly, stay on budget and are completed within the timeframe that was agreed upon.
We’ve compiled 5 primary benefits of leveraging project management in your cybersecurity projects:
- Streamlined Project Execution
- Strategic Alignment
- Optimized Resource Allocation
- Continuous Improvement
- Problem Resolution and Risk Management
*Disclaimer: In this article, we focus on some of the most commonly-cited benefits of project management within the cybersecurity context. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but is intended for guidance only.
Benefit #1: Streamlined Project Execution
According to a project management survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., “executives discovered that adhering to project management methods and strategies reduced risks, cut costs and improved success rates”. The business benefits of a project management office (PMO) go without saying, and similar credit goes to the value of project management for cybersecurity projects specifically.
A project management practice can help your cybersecurity project to be on budget and on schedule.
A cybersecurity project manager will also enforce that your project has clearly-defined deliverables, that it is executed with the agreed-upon results in mind, and that related findings, changes and important steps are communicated to all relevant stakeholders in a timely manner.
Benefit #2: Strategic Alignment
For a cybersecurity project to be successful, it must be aligned to the overall business strategy and goals.
If you don’t have a solid business reason for why your organization should implement this project, chances are you won’t be able to prove its effectiveness and importance down the road.
In fact, your cybersecurity projects should be aligned with:
- the amount and relevance of data you process,
- your level of threat exposure,
- your risk appetite, and
- the applicability of regulatory requirements.
A cybersecurity project manager can keep your cybersecurity projects in check and make sure that they are executed with overall corporate goals in mind and can deliver measurable return on investment (ROI). Often, it is this high-level overview that IT and security professionals tend to oversee in their hectic day-to-day jobs.
Benefit #3: Optimized Resource Allocation
The cybersecurity skills shortage has hit a record high in recent years, and is projected to worsen in the coming years, according to ISACA’s study “State of Cybersecurity 2018”. If you are one of the few lucky companies out there with qualified cybersecurity resources, you will know that their time is very limited, to say the least.
A cybersecurity project manager will be able to optimize resource allocation, make sure that critical resources are working on critical projects, and make sure to assign projects to the right resources.
By optimizing resources, IT and security professionals can ensure that cybersecurity projects are executed with optimal performance in mind and that resource capacities are respected. Lastly, your executive team will be happy to know that you’re managing your cybersecurity project in an efficient manner that won’t waste resources.
Benefit #4: Continuous Improvement
As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.
A solid project management practices for your cybersecurity projects can help your organization learn from mistakes, avoid similar mistakes in the future and thereby facilitate the continuous improvement of processes, procedures and projects.
Often overlooked in the busy schedules of IT and security professionals, proper documentation about a project will not only serve as business intelligence, but also save time and resources for similar projects in the future.
A project manager will include a kickoff and a lessons learned discussion as natural elements of a successful cybersecurity project.
Benefit #5: Problem Resolution and Risk Management
Lastly, project management is important because it ensures that your cybersecurity project risks are properly managed, mitigated and communicated.
Before the start of a cybersecurity project, a good project manager will identify and list the potential risks of the project, communicate them to the main stakeholders, and provide and evaluation for whether the project should be executed or not – despite its risks. Once the project has started, a cybersecurity project manager will keep these risks in mind, look out for additional risks along the way and keep all involved parties informed.
If problems arise, a project manager can play the role of a mediator between internal teams and resources, but also between the internal and external spheres. Having an objective instance involved in your cybersecurity project will ensure that potential problems (e.g. delays, confusion about deliverables, budget deviations) are uncovered, addressed and resolved in a professional and timely manner.
In the early days of cybersecurity, defending your organization against data breaches and security incidents probably was a whole lot easier. Nowadays, businesses struggle to keep up with the never-ending amount of security threats, malware, cyber attacks and insider theft. This also means that protection mechanisms need to keep up with the increasing complexity within the cybersecurity domain.
Very quickly, managing a cybersecurity strategy becomes like managing a project – there are strategies to implement, budgets to adhere to, schedules to follow and processes to put in place.
With project management in place, executives will come to appreciate that their cybersecurity projects (and related expenses) are aligned with the overall business strategy, optimize their resources and facilitate the continuous improvement of the company as a whole.