The traditional narrative for cybersecurity has been about limited visibility and operational constraints — not business opportunities. These conversations are grounded in various assumptions, such as limited budgets, scarce resources, skills being at a premium, the attack surface growing, and increased complexity. For years, conventional thinking has been that cybersecurity costs a lot, takes a long time, and is more of a cost center than an enabler of growth.
In our upcoming paper, Prosper in the Cyber Economy, published by IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV), we share research findings that challenge some of these assumptions. The IBV partnered with Oxford Economics to interview more than 2,300 business, operations, technology, cyber risk, and cybersecurity executives across 18 industries and 25 countries.
What we found is sentiments around security are changing — according to security leaders and other leaders across the business. Sixty-six percent of respondents now view cybersecurity primarily as a revenue enabler. This makes sense when you consider that organizations with advanced security capabilities are realizing better business outcomes.
To better understand the business benefits associated with security transformation, we assessed respondent organizations’ security maturity in five areas: cyber and risk strategy, foundational capabilities, security operating models, business integration, and ecosystem coordination. Respondents fell into four stages of maturity with stark differences between the least and most mature groups — distinctions that reveal themselves in terms of operational performance.
Notably, the most mature security organizations see a 43% higher revenue growth rate over five years than the least mature organizations.
Shared responsibility is based on organizations working with partners to maintain a consistent security posture. Our analysis suggests that shared responsibility opens the door to additional downstream benefits like shared resilience and shared value. With common concerns like cyber risk and shared responsibility, the organization’s security function can break down silos by connecting different parts of the enterprise — and even extend capabilities (and opportunities) out into the broader partner ecosystem.
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What are mature security organizations doing differently? More than just shifting from reactive to proactive, they look across the security lifecycle as a whole — where a growing number of value-added services can be found. In fact, the biggest opportunities arise from security’s unique role spanning the entire organization. For many clients, security modernization serves as the tip of the spear for broader business, security, and IT/IS transformation efforts.
Our research found that organizations with the greatest security maturity use their investments in security to enhance business outcomes. For organizations with the greatest security maturity, this takes the form of better risk awareness, greater visibility, deeper integration, more accountability, and more effective governance.
We found two sets of capabilities to be most impactful — how organizations approach cyber risk and how they approach shared responsibility via integration with their ecosystem partners. In practice, this means shifting our awareness further left in the security lifecycle to cyber risk and further right to cyber resilience. In doing so, cybersecurity becomes less about responding to adverse events and more about preventing, mitigating, and avoiding them.
In short, when leaders take a more proactive, collaborative, and integrative approach to cybersecurity, they not only reduce risk but increase profits. By expanding the aperture beyond the immediate threat environment — by focusing on risk exposure and IT/IS resilience — organizations can realize a more mature security posture that can power business transformation.
So what steps can security officers take to act on these insights?
While conventional thinking has long defined security around operational constraints, we can shift our perspective to re-envision security as the seed of opportunity. As more security leaders realize a defensive and reactive approach to cybersecurity is not serving them well, they are recognizing security as one of the few functions that cuts across the entire enterprise. This is an invitation — one that can drive new transformation opportunities with partners inside the organization and in the extended ecosystem.
If you’re interested in reading more from this report, you can download it here.
Vice President / GM IBM WW Security
For more than 15 years, Chris has held multiple leadership positions directing sales and strategy for IBM Security Services, consistently driving rapid growt...