CIO/CISO Conflicting Priorities 

Category: News
Published: 16th March 2023

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The CIO and CISO roles are becoming increasingly vital as companies strive to transform digitally. However, the CIO and CISO may have conflicting priorities. We discuss the significance of this and how to overcome any issues caused.


CIO vs CISO: Distinguishing Roles

CIOs are responsible for managing IT and computer systems to support the objectives and goals of an organisation. The CIO is responsible for ensuring the day-to-day operations of the IT department run smoothly. They manage the IT budget and look for ways to innovate and collaborate. Some of the other responsibilities of a CIO include:

  • managing IT systems and network operations
  • developing and enforcing IT strategies, procedures, policies, and best practices that best serve the business needs
  • reporting IT initiatives and best practices with executives and other decision-makers
  • keeping up with IT trends and emerging technologies
  • managing relationships with the supply chain and other relevant stakeholders

On the other hand, a CISO is responsible for managing the company’s information security. This means that they protect the company’s data assets and systems by managing risk. They ensure that the security infrastructure aligns with the overall objectives of the organisation. The responsibilities of a CISO include:

  • developing and implementing a cyber security program that protects the business from threats and aligns with the business needs
  • directing the company’s security strategies and policy framework in line with legislation and industry standards
  • monitoring incident response activities and implementing business continuity and disaster recovery plans
  • managing information security budgets by making smart investments in cyber security
  • governing the cyber security workforce. This includes attracting and retaining skills, upskilling the team, and raising information security awareness across the business

While the CIO and CISO both have duties related to the company’s information systems, their focus and priorities vary.


CIO vs CISO: Balancing Act

While CIOs aim to deliver services efficiently, CISOs aim to deliver them securely. They must collaborate by focusing on the overall business priorities of the company, not individual technologies.

Companies may have different internal structures that impact the relationship between CIOs and CISOs. In most cases, the CISO reports to the CIOs, while the CIO reports to the CEO or COO. This scenario is likely to present fewer conflicts between the two roles as they are on the same team. But, the CIOs may be pressured to cut costs, which may impact budgets and goals for information and cyber security.

It is becoming increasingly popular for both CISOs and CIOs to report to the CEO. This scenario is likely to result in conflict over priorities, budgets, and programs. Conflicting priorities between the CIO and CISOs can have a big impact on a company’s ability to adopt technology. This is true no matter what the internal structure of the company looks like.

Both CIOs and CISOs are faced with challenges related to skills shortages, budget constraints, limited resources, etc. However, it is in the organisations’ best interest for the two executives to find common ground.

CIOs and CISOs both have important projects to complete. These projects often overlap, particularly when a company is trying to transform digitally. This includes the selection and use of cloud-based applications (whether hybrid, on-premises or multi-cloud deployments).

These applications may affect business performance. They are related to security and risk management, which needs cooperation between both teams. If CIOs and CISOs work together, they can help mitigate data breaches and other risks and vulnerabilities associated with these applications. CIOs can use insights from CISOs to understand the security implications of IT initiatives.


CIO vs CISO: Resolving Conflicting Priorities

Most companies cannot afford for their CIOs to be in conflict with their security officers. Both leaders need to comprehend how the company values business outcomes. This helps them understand where and how investments should be allocated.

There is no single approach to resolving conflicting priorities for CIOs and CISOs. However, some steps they can take are:

  • Set clear roles and responsibilities for both IT and security. Emphasise the importance of collaboration, especially when their roles overlap.
  • Involve CIOs and CISOs in the company’s strategic planning process. This helps them work together towards a shared vision for the business. Aligning their priorities will help them achieve this vision.
  • Build a strong relationship between the CIO and CISO: This relationship needs to be based on trust and mutual respect. It should foster cooperation between the two roles and result in a positive work culture and successful organisational outcomes.

The bottom line is that both the CIO and CISO can play a critical role in the success and security of a company. Therefore, it is vital for them to collaborate and balance both the technological needs of the business and the need for security.

Collaboration between the two leaders is encouraged and could potentially resolve some issues with conflicting priorities.