The Role of the CISO Post-Pandemic The world has evolved… Prior to recent global events, many organizations viewed digital transformation as a slow-moving journey that...
A CISO’s Guide: Avoiding the Common Pitfalls of Zero Trust Deployments The Role of the CISO Post-Pandemic
The world has evolved... Prior to recent global events, many organizations viewed digital transformation as a slow-moving journey that would be achieved gradually over time. However, Covid turned this completely on its ear, forcing most organizations to accelerate that journey from 2-3 years down to 2-3 months, and doing so without a well-thought-out strategy. Couple this with the rapid rise of Work-From-Anywhere (WFA) and CISOs have realized their traditional security architectures, specifically VPNs, are no longer adequate to ensure only authorized users have access to critical resources.
Collectively, this has made the role of CISO ever more important because, as a result of this accelerated journey, we now have applications everywhere, people everywhere, leading to increased cyber threats everywhere. The role of CISO has one core imperative: mapping out the company’s security priorities and strategy, then executing this flawlessly to ensure the strongest possible security posture to protect access to critical data.
Zero Trust Is Just a Starting Point
This is why Zero Trust has now become top-of-mind for all CISOs. The concept of Zero Trust has been around for more than a decade since first being introduced. Zero Trust mandates that all edges, internal or external, cloud, branch or data center, to be authenticated, authorized and validated before granting or maintaining access to critical data. In short, Zero Trust is a framework for building holistic security for the modern digital infrastructure and associated data. Considering cyber threats continue to rapidly expand, and chasing down data breeches have become a daily activity, Zero Trust is uniquely equipped to address the modern digital business architecture: WFA workers, supply chains, hybrid cloud, and evolving threats.
It must be noted that Zero Trust is not a single product solution, and CISOs would be well advised to consult the three main standards (Forrester ZTX, Gartner Carta, NIST SP-800-207) as guidance for developing their Zero Trust strategy. Of the three, to date, NIST SP-800-207 as pictured below, is the most widely adopted framework.
In general, the NIST model is a discussion of 2 key functions:
Data plane – this is the collector of data from numerous sources. These sources can be application data, user device information, user identity information, etc. Control plane – this is the brains of the model as this is responsible for making decisions upon what is considered good, bad, or requiring further clarification.
Together, the control plane and data plane collaborate to determine whether a user should be granted access permissions at any point in time to the resource for which they are requesting. Critical for this to be viable, effective, and scalable, is the context that informs decisions to be made around access and security. As each business varies in its data flows and security concerns, this context consists of data feeds, as depicted in figure 1, that includes compliance data, log data, threat intelligence feeds and user and application data, as well as other data sources captured across the network. The more context you have, the better decisions your Zero Trust deployment will make.
The 5 Most Common Pitfalls in Zero Trust Projects
The concept of Zero Trust is often misunderstood, potentially resulting in misaligned strategies that don’t meet the organization’s needs. Gartner defines Zero Trust as a ‘mindset that defines key security objectives’ while removing implicit trust in IT architectures. This implies that today’s CISOs would be well-advised to pursue their Zero Trust strategy thoughtfully, to ensure they avoid common pitfalls that impede most security initiatives.
Pitfall 1: Failing to Apply the Key Tenants of Zero Trust
Zero Trust came to life as a resolution for overly permissive access rights that created broad security risks throughout networks. The concept of implicit deny is perceived as the catch all terminology for a better security architecture, assuming it to be the fix-all for all things security. Considering this, it may be easy for CISOs to inadvertently disregard the core purpose of Zero Trust and overlook some key architectural tenants that influence Zero Trust architectures.
While each of the Zero Trust frameworks call out a number of architectural attributes of Zero Trust, for the purpose of this section, we will highlight a few that we feel should not be overlooked.
Dynamic policy determines access to resources – dynamic polices focus on the behavioral characteristics of both the user and devices when determining whether access will be granted or denied. A subset of these characteristics can include location, device posture, data analytics and usage patterns. For example, is the user in a restricted location, or are user and device credentials being used correctly? Any of these should determine whether access should be granted and at what level.
Continuous monitoring and evaluation – no user or device should blindly be trusted for access to network or application resources. Zero Trust dictates that the state of both the resource and the entity requesting access to be continually monitored and evaluated. Those deemed to be risky should be treated accordingly, whether it is limited access or no access.
Segmentation & Least Privileges – Zero Trust should eliminate blind trust and by extension, blanket access to targeted resources from all employees, contractors, supply chain partners, etc. and from all locations. And when access is granted, only the minimal amount of access required to ensure productivity should be granted. This ensures the damage is limited should there be a breach of some kind.
Context Automation – For Zero Trust to deliver the desired impact, organizations need to collect lot of data and contextualize this. This context is the key as without context, well-informed decisions for user or device access cannot be made. The more context, the better the decisions being made.
Cato SASE Cloud Approach: The Cato SASE Cloud takes a risk-based approach to Zero Trust, combining Client Connectivity & Device Posture capabilities with more holistic threat preventions techniques. Because we have full visibility of all data flows across the network, we utilize this, as well as threat intelligence feeds and user and device behavioral attributes to pre-assess all users and devices prior granting access onto the network. This in-depth level of context allows us to determine their client connectivity criteria and device suitability for network access, as well as continually monitor and assess both the user and device throughout their life on the network. Additionally, we use AI & Machine Learning algorithms to continually mine the network for indications of malware or other advanced threats and will proactively block these threats to minimize the potential damage inflicted upon the network.
[boxlink link="https://www.catonetworks.com/resources/the-hybrid-workforce-planning-for-the-new-working-reality/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=top_cta&utm_campaign=hybrid_workforce"] The Hybrid Workforce: Planning for the New Working Reality | EBOOK [/boxlink]
Pitfall 2: Treating Zero Trust a Like a Traditional VPN
When deploying Zero Trust, many organizations tend to rely on legacy security processes that are no longer applicable or select the shiny new toy that equates to a less viable solution. In 2021, Gartner noted that some organizations reported initially configuring their Zero Trust deployments to grant full access to all applications, which ironically, mirrored their VPN configuration. One of the intrinsic shortcomings of traditional VPNs, beyond the connectivity issue, is the challenge of least privilege user access to critical applications once a user has been authenticated to the network. Traditional VPNs cannot provide partial or specific access to selected applications or resources. So, deploying Zero Trust like their old VPN leaves us to wonder what problems they are truly solving, if any.
CISOs must remember that existing security architectures are based on the concept of implicit trust, which leads to unknown, yet ever-increasing risk to modern enterprise environments. The ultimate goal of Zero Trust is to ensure that users and their devices prove they can be trusted with access to critical resources. Hence, the ultimate goal for any CISO in creating a Zero Trust strategy is to reduce the risk posed by users and devices, and in the event of a successful breach, limit the spread and impact of the attack.
Cato SASE Cloud Approach: Cato Networks realizes that existing VPN architectures are too inadequate to provide the depth of access protections for critical enterprise resources. The Cato approach to Zero Trust invokes consistent policy enforcement everywhere to ensures least privilege access to all enterprise & cloud resources, while also taking a holistic approach to preventing cyber threats. We consume terabytes of data across our entire SASE Cloud backbone, and this informs how we apply additional protections once users and devices are on the network.
Pitfall 3: Not understanding the true impact on the user, IT and Security
Unfortunately for many CISOs, IT and Security departments do not always operate with aligned priorities and desired outcomes. IT departments may have critical projects they deem to have a higher priority than Security. Security teams, being tasked with strengthening the organization’s security posture may view Zero Trust as the only priority. In such cases of mis-aligned priorities, Zero Trust efforts may result in incomplete or mis-configured deployments, expanding security gaps and increasing blind spots. And let’s not forget the end user. When IT organizations finally makes significant changes to networks, security, or other systems, if priorities aren’t aligned, the end results will produce adverse user outcomes.
When it comes to Zero Trust, CISOs must ensure they are mapping out the journey. In doing so, IT and Security teams should establish a “Hippocratic Oath” of “first, do no harm”, similar to that of the medical community. This could make it easier to map the journey to Zero Trust where the solution is simple to deploy, easy to manage, easily scales at the speed of the business, and provides positive outcomes for all parties impacted. Critical to this is the user – Zero Trust must not impede their ability to get things done.
Cato SASE Cloud Approach: At Cato Networks, our entire approach to Zero Trust is to ensure the most holistic user experience with zero impact on productivity. Often when deploying or upgrading to new security technologies, security teams will inadvertently have policy mis-matches that result in inconsistent policy enforcement in certain segments of the network. Zero Trust, if not implemented correctly, increases the risk level for negative user experiences, which will reflect poorly upon the CISO and their teams. With the Cato SASE Cloud, Zero Trust & Client Access policies are applied once and enforced everywhere. This ensures specific and consistent policy treatment for all users and devices based upon identity and user and devices access criteria.
"The hallmark of Zero Trust is Simplicity"John Kindervag
Pitfall 4: Inadequately Scoping Common Use Cases
CISOs are so inundated with everyday security concerns that identifying all possible use cases for their Zero Trust initiative, while seemingly straight-forward, could be easily overlooked. It is easy to drill down into the core requirements of Zero Trust, approaching from a broad enterprise perspective, yet neglect smaller details that might derail their project. While there are numerous use cases and each would depend on the individual organization, this document calls out (3) use cases that, if not properly planned for, will impact all non-HQ based or non-company users.
Multi-branch facilities – It is common that today’s enterprises will comprise of a single headquarter with multiple global locations. More commonly, these global locations exist in a shared space arrangement whereby the physical network and connectivity is independent of the company. In such cases, these employees still require access to enterprise applications or other resources at the HQ or company data center. In other cases, a user may be a road warrior, using unmanaged personal devices, or be located in restricted locations. Given this, great care and consideration must be given in determining if, when and how to grant access to necessary resources while denying access or restricting actions to more sensitive resources.
Multi-cloud environments – More enterprises are utilizing multi-cloud providers to host their applications and data. There are occasions whereby the application and data source exist in different clouds. Ideally, these cloud environments should connect directly to each other to ensure the best performance.
Contractors and 3rd party partners – Contractors and 3rd party supply chain partners requiring access to your network and enterprise resources is very common these days. Often these entities will use unmanaged devices and/or connect from untrusted locations. Access can be granted on a limited basis, allowing these users and devices only to non-critical services.
CISOs must factor in these and other company specific use cases to ensure their Zero Trust project does not inadvertently alienate important non-company individuals.
Cato SASE Cloud Approach: At Cato Networks, we acknowledge that use cases are customer, industry, and sometimes, location dependent. And when Zero Trust is introduced, the risk of inadvertently neglecting one or more critical use cases is magnified. For this reason, we built our architecture to accommodate, not only the most common use cases, but also obscure and evolving use cases as well. The combination of our converged architecture, global private backbone, single policy management, and virtual cloud sockets ensure we provide customers with the most accommodating, yet most robust and complete Zero Trust platform possible.
Pitfall 5: Not having realistic ROI expectations
ROI, for many IT-related initiatives is rather difficult to measure, and many CISOs often find themselves twisted on how to demonstrate this to ensure company-wide acceptance. Three questions around ROI that are traditionally difficult to answer are:
What should we expect?
When should we expect it?
How would we know?
Like many things technology-related, CISOs are hesitant to link security investments to financial metrics. However, delaying a Zero Trust deployment can yield increased costs, or negative ROI over time that can be measured in increased data breaches, persistent security blind spots, inappropriate access to critical resources, and misuse of user and resource privileges, just to name a few.
CISOs can address these ROI concerns through a number of strategies that extend beyond simple acquisition costs and into the broader operational costs. With the right strategy and solution approach, a CISO can uncover the broader strategic benefits of Zero Trust on financial performance to realize it as an ROI-enabler.
Cato SASE Cloud Approach: It is easy to appreciate the challenge of achieving ROI from Security projects. As mentioned, CISOs like CIOs are hesitant to link security investments to financial metrics. However, with an appropriate Zero Trust strategy, organizations will assure themselves enormous savings in IT effort and vendor support. Organizations deploying a Zero Trust solution based off a converged, cloud-native, global backboned SASE Cloud like Cato can expect more efficient cost structures while achieving greater performance. By converging critical security functions, including Zero Trust, into a single software stack within the Cato SASE Cloud, organizations are able to immediately retire expensive, non-scalable, maintenance-intensive VPN equipment. This approach delivers ease of deployment and simplistic management, while drastically reducing maintenance overhead and IT support costs.
Achieving Your Organization’s Zero Trust Goals with Cato SASE Cloud
Justifying a security transformation from implicit trust to Zero Trust is becoming easier and easier. However, determining the right approach to achieving an organization’s Zero Trust goals can be daunting. It is challenging when factoring in the broad paradigm shift in how we view user and device access, as well as numerous use case considerations with unique characteristics. Zero Trust Network Access is an identity-driven default-deny approach to security that greatly improves your security posture. Even if a malicious user compromises a network asset, ZTNA can limit the potential damage. Furthermore, the Cato SASE Cloud’s security services can establish an immediate baseline of normal network behavior, which enables a more proactive approach to network security in general and threat detection in particular. With a solid baseline, malicious behavior is easier to detect, contain, and prevent.
"The Zero Trust is a security model based on the principle of maintaining strict access controls and not trusting anyone by default; a holistic approach to network security, that incorporates a number of different principles and technologies.” Ludmila Morozova-Buss
The Cato SASE Cloud was designed for the modern digital enterprise. Our cloud-native architecture converges security features such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), SWG, NGFW, IPS, CASB, and DLP, as well as networking services such as SD-WAN and WAN Optimization across a global private backbone with a 99.999% uptime SLA. As a result, Cato is the only vendor currently capable of delivering seamless ZTNA on a true SASE platform for optimized performance, security, and scalability.
Zero Trust is a small part of SASE. The Cato SASE Cloud restricts access of all edges – site, mobile users and devices, and cloud resources – in accordance with Zero Trust principles. Click here to understand more about Cato Networks’ approach to Zero Trust.
We are witnessing a tremendous shift in mindset regarding technology’s relationship to the business. As IT leaders learned during Covid, business challenges are IT challenges,...
Solving Real-World Challenges – Your Pathway to SASE We are witnessing a tremendous shift in mindset regarding technology’s relationship to the business. As IT leaders learned during Covid, business challenges are IT challenges, and IT challenges are business challenges. As digitization continues to advance, these leaders continue to face an array of challenges, and the solutions they choose will determine their success or failure.
This article provides IT and security professionals with actionable ideas for selecting a robust platform for digital transformation to address the network and security challenges that adversely impact their business.
Real-world challenges in need of solutionsThe Cato SASE ApproachSASE ComparisonsKey questions to ask yourself when looking for a solutionMapping Your Journey
Real-world Challenges Breeds New Networking and Security Considerations
Global Business Expansion Creates New Connectivity Requirements
We are a global business society that is constantly expanding, whether organically into new markets or through mergers and acquisitions into new business lines. Whatever the impetus, there are real challenges these organizations will face. Adding new locations, for example, requires planning for global and local connectivity, which could be very inconsistent, depending upon the region.
In the case of mergers, we must deal with inconsistent or incompatible networks architectures, while factoring in the unreliable nature of global connectivity over a public internet. And let’s not forget inconsistent security policies that add to your headaches.
And finally, we must consider how all this affects migrating new users and apps onto your core network, as well as ensuring access and security policies are correct. Not impossible, but this could take weeks or months to achieve.
All this results in unexpected consequences.
Rapid site deploymentInconsistent connectivityPublic Internet Transport
On-premise to Cloud Migration Spurs Capacity Constraints
Most obstacles in cloud adoption are related to basic performance aspects, such as availability, capacity, latency and scalability. Many organizations neglect to consider bandwidth and capacity requirements of cloud applications. These applications should deliver similar or better performance as legacy on-premise. However, with the rush to adapt to the new Covid-normal, many are finding this is far from reality.
Scalability is also an issue with cloud deployments. As businesses continue to grow and expand, the greater the need for a cloud network that scales at the speed of their business, and doesn’t restrict the business with its technical limitations.
All together, these are real issues IT teams continue to face today, and until now, saw little to no relief in sight.
Capacity planning and cost managementPoor app performanceScalability
Expanding Cyber Threat Landscape
Every year, like clockwork, we witness numerous global companies attacked by cyber criminals at least once per day. Many have had sensitive data stolen and publicly leaked. The pandemic only exacerbated this, pushing more employees further from the enterprise security perimeter. The growth in Work-From-Anywhere (WFA) introduced more remote worker security challenges than many expected, and not many were truly prepared.
Additionally, as more organizations move their apps to cloud, providing security for these apps, as well as safe use of 3rd party SaaS apps, became an even stickier point for today’s enterprises. This, along with securing remote workers, is pushing IT leaders to face the harsh reality of their current cyber defense short-comings.
As these businesses attempt some form of return to normal, it’s clear we may never make it back to traditional full-time office setup. WFA, as well as increased cloud usage, is here to stay, meaning the threats to the business will only increase. This means the potential costs of cyber breaches will follow suit.
Expanding cyber threat landscapeSecuring Work-from-anywhere (WFA)Improper employee usage
The Cato SASE Approach to Rapid Digital Transformation
It’s easy for most organizations to take a traditional approach to these challenges by looking for point solutions or creative chaining of technologies to create a bundled solution. While this provides an initial “feel-good” moment, this complex approach, invariably, creates more problems than it solves.
Cato addresses these challenges through simplicity, and accomplish this through our converged, cloud-native approach. The Cato SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) Cloud converges core capabilities of networking, security and access management into a single software stack that delivers optimized cloud access, predictable performance, and unified policy management. Our SASE Cloud also provides complete visibility to inspect all traffic flows and provide advanced, holistic threat protection and consistent policy enforcement across a global private backbone.
Cato addresses the challenges of global connectivity with our global private backbone, providing resiliency and performance SLA guarantees. Our cloud acceleration and optimization address the performance challenges faced when migrating enterprise apps to a cloud data center. And we address the security challenges with advanced, holistic security tools like NGFW, SWG, NextGen Anti-Malware, IPS, CASB and DLP.
The Cato SASE Cloud enables enterprises to more rapidly and securely deliver new products and services to market, and more quickly respond to changes in business and technology dynamics that impacts their competitiveness.
What is SASE and its Core Requirements?
When deciding on SASE solutions, it is helpful to understand the core requirements as specified by Gartner and compare the various vendors in the market. For SASE to deliver on the promise of infrastructure simplicity, end-end optimization and limitless scalability, it must adhere to certain requirements: Converged, Cloud-native, Global, All Edges and Unified Management.
Converged – A single software stack that combines network, security, and access management as one. This eliminates multiple layers of complexity. There is no need to stitch together bundles of disparate technologies. No need for multiple configuration tools to configure these different technologies. Convergence leads to simplistic architecture, easier management, and lower overall costs to the business.Cloud-Native – Built in the cloud for the cloud. Unlike appliances and virtualized solutions based upon appliances, being cloud-native enables vendor to deliver more flexibility in deployment and scale easier and faster when customers require more capacity.Global – Having a global presence means a network of PoPs everywhere, connected via a global private backbone. This means the network is everywhere the customer business is, delivering guaranteed performance and optimization for all traffic, consistent policy enforcement globally, network resilience to keep the business running.All Edges – Consistently and seamlessly delivering services to all edges (branch, endpoint, data center, cloud) without complex configuration or integration.Unified – A single, unified management console to provision and manage all services. No need to build dashboards to communicate with multiple technologies to manage the deployment .
These are non-negotiable requirements that only a true Cloud-Native SASE solution can deliver. Appendix A highlights how the Cato SASE Cloud compares to appliance-based solutions.
7 Questions You Must Ask Before Selecting Your Next Solution
To solve these issues, here are some key questions to ask yourself and your team. This will help you find the right solution to alleviate these challenges.
1. What real problems are we trying to solve?
Identify what technical challenges are inhibiting you from delivering the best app, networking, and security experience for the business. Discover which projects are on hold because your infrastructure can’t accommodate them. The answers will provide you with insights into the actual problems you need to solve.
2. Which solution solves this, while scaling at the speed of our business?
The natural response when encountering point-problems, is to find a point-solution. When doing so, ask yourself which solution delivers a more holistic approach to all your concerns (from question 1) while also providing a platform that scales at the speed of your business.
3. How can we ensure cost-effective, business continuity?
Business continuity is non-negotiable, so when searching for a solution, ensure you find one that provides a resilient architecture that keeps your business running, no matter what happens.
4. With limited resources, how fast can we deploy new sites?
Your solution shouldn’t just look good on paper, it needs to work well in practice. You can’t wait two, three or six months to launch new branches. Find a solution that enables rapid, zero-touch deployment, with minimal impact on your teams.
5. How can we build and maintain a consistent policy structure?
Multiple configuration tools can create policy mismatches, which in turns, creates gaps and puts your critical applications at risk. To reduce this risk, find a solution that addresses configuration inconsistencies.
6. What’s the right amount of security?
Security is an imperative, so most businesses try to implement multiple solutions with lots of cool-sounding features to make themselves feel secure. Unfortunately, multiple point solutions create security blind spots. Additionally, about 80%-90% of “cool” security features are never used. Achieve more with less by finding a solution that improves your security posture, independent from the size of your corporation or the size of your IT team
7. What’s our best option for global connectivity?
Connectivity can make or break your business. Find a solution that provides increased capacity, guaranteed performance, and a global private backbone. Don’t settle for less.
Mapping Your SASE Journey in 4 Easy Steps
Now that you understand the networking and security challenges adversely affecting your business and their proposed solutions, now it’s time to map out your SASE journey. Doing this can be easier than you might think.
After you’ve answered the above questions, it’s now time to prioritize and create your migration plan. You may have one problem to solve, and in this case it’s easy. But most will have several, so once determined and prioritized, it’s time to plan and put it into action. Of course, Cato and our partners can assist, and even recommend a migration plan.
2. Solve the problem:
This is wholly up to the organization. Some may prefer to tackle low-hanging fruit projects to build confidence in the teams. In this case, easy problems may go first. But others believe in “Go Big or Go Home”, so they may start with the most critical problems first. It’s basically up to the organization to define.
Observe the “wow” moments of that problem being solved. Whether performance, enhanced security, global connectivity, and so on – observe and enjoy. Then move onto the next problem or project.
4. Repeat and observe.
It’s a straight-forward journey, and a well-defined plan makes it all flow smoothly.
Does Your Solution Allow You to Plan for the Future?
Solving problems the legacy way is how we acquired the complexity beast we have today. So, it’s time we change the game and become more strategic about addressing our IT challenges.
The Cato SASE Cloud does this by converging all the capabilities organizations need today into a single platform, while future-proofing their businesses for whatever is next. In contrast, a non-SASE approach forces you to spend time and resources evaluating, acquiring, and integrating multiple technologies to address each requirement.
Taking a platform approach to your transformation journey will address the challenges of today and prepare you for the opportunities of tomorrow. Taking a Cato SASE approach will enable your network to scale at the speed of your business.
Appendix A – SASE Core Requirements Comparison Chart
Gartner SASE Requirements Cato Appliance Solutions Cato SASE Advantage for Customers Converged Yes One single software stack with the network and security as one NO A mixed collection of appliances that are stitched together. Network and security simplicity and uniformity in policy enforcement can only be achieved through convergence. Cloud-Native Yes Built as a distributed cloud-native service from scratch, with no appliance baggage NO Use virtualized hardware placed in the cloud Easy and inexpensive to scale when increased capacity is required. Customers can scale and grow at the speed of their business, and not be limited by the complexity of a stale network. Global Yes 75+ PoPs available located near every major business center. Each has an independent expansion plan. Limited Relying on IaaS for hosting PoPs limits availability and degrades performance. Growth depends on IaaS plans, not the SASE vendor's Cato’s global private backbone delivers performance guarantees, resiliency and policy consistency between sites across the WAN and cloud. All Edges Yes Designed with light edge connectors (SD-WAN, SDP, Cloud) with a cloud first architecture to deliver same service to all edges Limited Delivering services to different edges requires a different portfolio solution. So, this is only achieved by stitching together portfolio products Connecting and servicing all edges (branch, endpoint, data center, cloud) does not require complex configuration or integration Management Unified One console to control all SD-WAN, security, remote access, and networking policies with full analytics and visibility. Self-service or managed service No Multiple configuration interfaces to navigate A single policy management app eliminates configuration gaps by ensuring consistent policy configurations & enforcement across the entire network.
About Cato Networks
Cato is the world's first SASE platform, converging SD-WAN and network security into a global cloud-native service. Cato optimizes and secures application access for all users and locations. Using Cato SASE Cloud, customers easily migrate from MPLS to SD-WAN, improve connectivity to on-premises and cloud applications, enable secure brach Internet access everywhere, and seamlessly integrate cloud data centers and remote users into the network with a zero-trust architecture. With Cato, your network and business are ready for whatever's next.
For any questions about the ideas suggested in this article, and if you have some more of your own, feel free to contact us at: catonetworks.com/contact-us/
Introduction: Discussing Transformation with the Board Technology is a strategic requirement for every global organization and its board of directors, regardless of industry. No one...
Talking SASE to Your Board: A CIO’s Guide to Getting to ‘Yes’ Introduction: Discussing Transformation with the Board
Technology is a strategic requirement for every global organization and its board of directors, regardless of industry. No one is immune from the machinations of technological evolution and the associated disruption that follows. As a result, we can no longer separate business strategy from technology strategy, forcing corporate boards to converge their decision-making processes around a strategic agenda of innovation and risk-mitigation. So, CIOs must take an innovative approach when discussing any transformational change with the board.
How to Position Network Transformation to the Board
Network transformation is a game-changing strategy that helps drive business growth and market acquisition. So, if not positioned effectively to address board-level concerns, it will impact the long-term ability to execute and advance business objectives. When addressing the board, CIOs must position such technology strategies with critical board-level concerns in mind and discuss them in the context of:
Can this strategy help us improve IT responsiveness and ability to support business growth?
What value will the business realize through this initiative?
What is the security impact of this strategy on our critical applications?
How would this strategy enable IT organizations to better mitigate increasing security risk?
What would be the short- and long-term financial impact of this initiative?
What is the impact of our current and next-gen IT talent?
Core to discussing these strategies is articulating the necessity of simplification, optimization, and risk-mitigation in delivering business outcomes through network transformation. And this is where Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) becomes that strategic conversation for board-level engagement.
[boxlink link="https://www.catonetworks.com/resources/your-first-100-days-as-cio-5-steps-to-success/?utm_source=blog&utm_medium=top_cta&utm_campaign=first_100_days_cio"] Your First 100 Days as CIO: 5 Steps to Success | EBOOK [/boxlink]
SASE is the network transformation strategy that addresses board-level concerns around risk, growth, and financial flexibility. SASE converges networking and security capabilities into a single high-performing cloud-native architecture that allows organizations to scale core business operations through efficiency and performance, while extending consistency in policy and protections. So, presenting a SASE strategy to the board requires CIOs to be crisp and clear when highlighting key business benefits.
[caption id="attachment_25242" align="alignnone" width="724"] Figure 1[/caption]
A Conversational Guide to Engaging the Board on SASE
In February 2019, Deloitte defined a 3-dimension conversation model for CIOs when engaging technology boards. This engagement model defines the thought processes of board members when evaluating technology initiatives for sustaining business growth and maximizing balance sheets.
[caption id="attachment_25244" align="alignnone" width="724"] Figure 2[/caption]
To influence the board’s decision-making process, CIOs can lean on this model to guide their discussion of SASE’s positive impact on business growth and sustainability. While SASE may not speak specifically to each sub-dimension of the Deloitte model, the core focus on Strategy, Risk and Financial Performance can be adapted as a conversation guide when discussing SASE and Network Transformation.
Highlight the Strategic Value of SASE
Disruptive technology drives business growth and market share acquisition. However, CIOs should emphasize SASE not as a disruptive technology, rather as a disruptive approach to existing technologies. When positioning SASE to boards, CIOs should emphasize the strategic potential of SASE’s disruptive approach to simplifying network operations, which by extension, accelerates business growth.
CIOs must articulate the strategic business benefits of converging networking and security functions into a single cloud-native software stack with unlimited scalability to support business growth. An obvious benefit is how SASE accelerates and optimizes access to critical applications, enhancing the collection, analysis, and securing of data, while improving user experiences and efficiency. Another benefit is how SASE eliminates scaling challenges when more capacity is required to service business growth and expansion.
An imperative for CIOs is to highlight use cases where SASE proves its strategic value across the entire enterprise. Successful SASE implementations makes it easier to pursue Cloud Migration, Work-From-Home (WFH), UCaaS, and Global Expansion projects, just to name a few. Through these, we observe how SASE not only eliminates networking and security headaches, but it also streamlines the efforts of IT teams, allowing them to place more focus on these strategic initiatives. SASE has now become that true platform for digital transformation and an enabler of business growth.
In short, CIOs must emphasize how SASE enables the network to scale at the speed of business, instead of the business being limited by the rigid, inflexibility of the network. This approach allows CIOs to demonstrate SASE’s strategic value to the overall business by removing technical challenges that limit growth.
SASE as a disruptive approach to simplifying network operations
SASE as a “Growth Enabler” – optimized access improves business operations
Unlimited scalability at the speed of business
[caption id="attachment_25250" align="alignnone" width="724"] Figure 3[/caption]
Present the Risk-mitigation Value of SASE
No one is immune to cyber risk, and boards will naturally question cyber readiness for critical projects that support business growth. Typically, discussions around risk are fragmented along network support for new initiatives, and security risk to data and privacy. This overlooks the obvious linkage between the two, but SASE allows CIOs to blend these conversations to address critical board-level concerns.
Considering this, presenting the risk-mitigation value of SASE requires CIOs to address a key imperative of most boards – SASE must help overcome increased complexity and mitigate cyber risks today and well into the future.
Years of acquiring point products to solve point problems have bloated technology environments, resulting in security blind spots, increased complexity, and unmanageable risk. SASE proves its risk mitigation value by simplifying protection schemes, increasing visibility, improving threat detection and response, unifying security policies, and facilitating easier auditing. CIOs must also emphasize SASE’s simplistic Zero-Trust access approach to critical applications, delivering consistent policy enforcement across the entire network.
Finally, CIO’s must outline how SASE enable organizations to meet regulatory and compliance mandates and policies. This conversational approach re-enforces SASE’s risk-mitigation value and alleviates one of the biggest board-level concerns – the risk of ransomware and business disruption.
Highlight cyber risks without SASE –complexity, blind spots, and reputation loss
Risk Mitigation value – holistic data protection schemes
True SASE is a platform that enables compliance mandates
[caption id="attachment_25252" align="alignnone" width="724"] Figure 4[/caption]
Discuss SASE as a Financial Performance Enabler
Boards are laser-focused on the long-term financial performance goals of the business. The board needs to understand how network transformation will improve their balance sheets and customer retention. While many CIOs hesitate to link technology investments to financial performance metrics, articulating the positive impact of SASE on financial performance can position it as an ROI-enabler.
In our whitepaper, “ROI of Doing Nothing”, we highlight the long-term financial impact of delaying network transformation with SASE. Becoming a Stage 1 company – transition early to anticipate challenges vs. being a Stage 2 company – delay results in increased requirements and subsequent costs, comes down to the overall financial burden organizations are prepared to withstand. CIOs must promote the positive ROI of SASE in securing the long-term financial structure of the business.
When evaluating the feasibility of network transformation with SASE, CIOs must speak to the business and talent efficiencies to be gained. Today, most enterprises exhaust considerable resources running and maintaining inefficient infrastructures. This often produces outages across the network, which impacts operations across the entire business. The financial impact of this is not only measured in maintenance contracts and renewal/upgrade fees, but also in application availability, performance, and scalability.
SASE reduces costs by retiring expensive and inefficient systems, and this also directly impacts their IT talent performance. Similar to the strategic value, less time spent on mundane technical support activities enables IT teams to direct their support efforts towards strategic, revenue-generating initiatives. This increases revenue generated per-head, thus improving the operational cost model.
Highlighting key performance metrics related to revenue and ROI will gain broad consensus for SASE projects. Mapping key performance requirements into business ROI gained via SASE, demonstrates how it not only transforms networking and security, but also overall IT and business operations that impact the bottom-line.
SASE as an ROI enabler – lower TCO
Delaying SASE – impacts long-term cost structures
IT support for revenue-generating initiatives
[caption id="attachment_25254" align="alignnone" width="724"] Figure 5[/caption]
A SASE Engagement Model Allows for CIO-Board Partnership
Justifying network transformation can be challenging considering it requires a paradigm shift towards a new way of viewing IT operations and its impact on the broader business. By following a simple board-level engagement model focusing on Strategy, Risk and Performance, CIOs can build a more compelling discussion on the numerous advantages in SASE that extend far beyond simple network and security efficiencies. It is important to develop that CIO-Board partnership that explores these through a business outcome lens. SASE pursued with strategic business enablement in mind alleviates the key board-level concerns, while empowering CIOs to deliver the resilient, cost-effective converged platform that enables optimal IT operations, mitigates risk, and produces long-term ROI.
Engaging the board on new technology approaches such as SASE does not have to be scary. SASE provides a new way to envision the Digital Infrastructure of the Future, and highlighting the main concerns of most board members, is the most direct approach to discuss this topic. This writing provides a simple guide for mapping board-level concerns to the intrinsic advantages of SASE, while providing a roadmap to realizing the key benefits.
To learn more about how CIO’s succeed in this digital era, download our “First 100 Days as a CIO” guide.