Exclusive: 5 tips for building a forward thinking security team

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2020 has taught us many things, but one key takeaway should be the value of looking ahead at the horizon. Forward thinking organisations are best placed to identify risks, so that they can mitigate threats and capture opportunities early.

It is important to strike a balance between meeting the needs of the enterprise today as well as allowing for changes in the future and this can often be challenging for security professionals who can be extremely focused on managing the day-to-day. But identifying risks early can be a differentiator for security leaders to add value to the business.

Thinking ahead

Forward thinking is having the ability to see, predict and plan ahead. As Thomas Edison once said: “There’s a way to do it better—find it.” 

Below are some tips to build a forward thinking team and approach to the security programme.

Build diverse teams

There are many benefits of hiring diverse teams and including these employees into the company culture, but one of the clear reasons is that diverse teams bring a diversity of thinking and of ideas to the table. Think of a team as a puzzle, each piece – a member of the team – contributes their skills, knowledge and experience to the complete picture and this will allow teams to look ahead and consider a range of potential future risks.

Learn from other organisations

Looking outside your own organisation is a powerful tool in helping to expand your thinking and your approach. As noted in a Bizjournal.com article from 2014, you can learn best practices from others and then bring this knowledge back to your own team and use that to make your team stronger. This knowledge can benefit your actions today, but also planning for the future.

Be adaptable

Forward thinking teams must be able to read and understand which direction the winds are blowing and adjust. Security leaders should not fear change but embrace it as a fact of our function and prepare for it. Being adaptable means not being wedded to an idea of the future because it doesn’t fit into your previous thinking.

Intelligence products are an asset

To be truly successful, leaders must agree that intelligence is an asset worth investing in. Rather than simply collect data and information and assume your work is done, think of gathering relevant nuggets to support the needs of business stakeholders. As Ben Rhodes notes in a 2018 article for introhive.com, instead of telling a story (like information does), intelligence paints a picture. A valuable intelligence product can assist decisions and can be a competitive advantage to a business.

Encourage a culture of thinking and planning, not just reacting

One of the biggest reasons many security professionals aren’t forward thinkers is because our function is typically reactionary. Many have a long list of responsibilities that need to get done — until those priorities slip because something more immediate or important happens. We have created a culture of reacting instead of a culture of thinking ahead. We often don’t consider the future because there aren’t tangible results associated with doing so.

As contradictory as it seems, forward thinking requires planning. But teams that go into their day without a game plan and priorities have already lost the battle because there will always be things to correct going in based on reactions.

Identify risks, test the scenario

Once you’ve developed an intelligence picture and a range of potential future risks, it’s important to consider the viability of a range of potential scenarios. Scenario planning is an invaluable tool, but one infrequently used in many organisations.

Using scenarios planning around potential events can allow security leaders to rehearse what could happen and identify potential problems in advance. This will allow organisations to anticipate what could happen and enables them to adapt to future events.

Think ahead, enable the business

In a June 2020 article, James Bradshaw, EY Asia-Pacific Data & Analytics Partner stated that leaders must “challenge themselves continually; they must think ahead of where they need to be, so they don’t get caught up in delivering only for today”.

As 2020 has taught us, the sooner that we can identify a problem the better we can prepare to manage it, or in some circumstances, position our businesses to capture the opportunities that may arrive. Looking ahead to 2021, the world will remain unstable and there will be many challenges that arise; forward thinking security teams will be best placed to manage these challenges and enable the business.

forward thinking
James Morris

By James Morris, Head of Security Services, EMEA at Aon

You can connect with James here

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