Benefits of CISO coaching for universities

+ Chris Schreiber
(September 1, 2021)
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Higher education CISOs face many challenges when building their cybersecurity strategy.

  • They must quantify and communicate IT risks to management while convincing faculty of the importance of following new and sometimes inconvenient security procedures;
  • They must track and comply with shifting regulatory requirements while working to get the funding and leadership support needed to enable compliance;
  • They must secure large quantities of personal information across a decentralized technology environment; and
  • They must quickly respond to the latest threats and vulnerabilities in a never-ending quest to avoid being the next data breach headline.

The CISO position can be lonely

A chief information security officer may feel alone as they face these challenges. CISO coaching can help overcome this by providing a trusted partner that can help you better understand and manage their institution’s security program. The CISO is no longer just one person. Instead, they can work with an expert on “speed dial” to get advice and assistance. This article explores the many benefits of CISO coaching services for a university. 

Amplify the effectiveness of your chief information security officer

CISO coaching enables a chief information security officer to collaborate with an experienced information security expert. The coach becomes a trusted extension of the information security team. This amplifies the effectiveness of the CISO function by adding a partner who understands the cybersecurity challenges facing universities, has expertise in the enterprise technology available to secure university data, and who can help explain the benefits of adopting solutions and how they’re used at other organizations. Coaches provide a competitive advantage for a CISO by combining the CISO’s local campus knowledge with broader industry expertise to help reduce risk and meet the information assurance needs of the institution.

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Simplify understanding of cybersecurity requirements

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Many higher education organizations create separate compliance-driven information security efforts in response to individual regulations. For example, one team may work on PCI controls to protect credit card data, another may work on research data security to comply with NIST 800-171 requirements in government contracts, and another on meeting HIPAA standards.

Maintaining separate security initiatives within a single organization is counterproductive. Costs are higher because of duplicated effort and redundant systems. Risk of data breaches increases because the security team lacks a consolidated view of events and security alerts across the enterprise. Fragmented security procedures make it hard to complete a comprehensive risk assessment and show the executive team whether the security program is adequately protecting data.

Consolidate requirements into a single framework

A CISO coach can help streamline cybersecurity efforts and link required security technologies to a consolidated framework, such as the CYBER HEAT MAP assessment tool. When a university must comply with a new regulation, this simplifies the process of mapping security requirements against existing capabilities and identifying gaps. It also provides the management team a consolidated view of the security controls needed across the organization. 

Verify security program capabilities

Understanding current cybersecurity capabilities is a fundamental component of any enterprise IT risk assessment. Many organizations struggle to show whether their information security program can meet their compliance and risk management goals. This can be even more difficult for universities, because they are subject to a diverse set of regulations and must implement security controls across decentralized information technology organizations.

Improve insights with ongoing capability assessments

A CISO coach can provide an impartial evaluation of the security program, with the added benefit of being familiar with how similar schools have organized their information security operations. This knowledge can assist a CIO and CISO in determining whether their cybersecurity capabilities meet their compliance goals and how their program compares with risk management best practices at peer institutions.

Prioritize potential investments and improvements

CISOs need to determine which security gaps they should address first, considering available resources, IT infrastructure limitations, budget constraints, and leadership support. A CISO coach can provide an objective analysis of a university’s cybersecurity capabilities compared to broader higher education best practices and evolving cyber threats.

Compare the importance of competing initiatives

A CISO coach can help differentiate the relative importance of each potential investment option. This helps the CISO most efficiently meet compliance standards and protects their university’s data. Coaching includes answering questions such as which regulations will have the greatest impact on the institution and how to prioritize spending based on the biggest risks faced by the university.

Navigate available solution options

It can be difficult for CISOs to keep up with the latest news about vendor offerings. This can lead a CISO to wonder which investments will actually reduce risks to their organization rather than just adding cost and complexity.


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Leverage insights from similar institutions

Working with a CISO coach who focuses on higher education can enhance a university’s security vendor management processes. A coach has extensive knowledge about how vendor solutions work from a technical perspective, how other similar universities use those solutions, and how a school’s current security program and team capabilities align with available solutions. This enables a coach to provide guidance about how new technology will actually affect day-to-day operations and reduce risks at the institution.

Cost-effective alternative to consulting

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Although a busy CISO may see the value in getting outside help, budget constraints often limit a university’s ability to hire consultants to help strengthen their information security program. CISO coaching can be an efficient approach to providing information security consulting services without the costs associated with hiring a traditional consultant for several days or weeks at a time.

Fixed price instead of hourly fees

CISO coaching service providers usually charge a fixed-fee retainer instead of hourly billing. Institutions can receive high-quality security guidance that is personalized to their needs, with predictable costs to avoid unexpected budget overruns. 

Get help when it's needed

CISO coaching is a continual process rather than a consulting engagement that produces a one-time report. CISOs can draw on the coach’s knowledge and experience over the entire engagement period when facing new challenges or planning the next evolution in their information security program.

Effectiveness grows over time

Because CISO coaching is a long-term partnership, the coach becomes more familiar with the institution. The coach focuses on helping their customers continually improve rather than just delivering a completed report. This allows the coach to more effectively assess and guide their customers in how to comply with security standards and how to counter threats while maximizing the impact of their security spending.

Learn more about CISO coaching for your university

CISO coaching can help university CISOs get the help they need to manage information security challenges without the costs associated with hiring a traditional consultant. CISO coaches offer personalized assessments tailored for your institution with ongoing support to address your CISO’s needs.

To learn more about how CISO coaching services can help you strengthen your university cybersecurity strategy, explore our website or book a free consultation to discuss your needs further.

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