Security and Compliance- Focused IT Approach-Key for Business Success

By Daniel Hughes, CIO, Elementis Global

Daniel Hughes, CIO, Elementis GlobalDaniel Hughes, CIO, Elementis Global

As a multinational chemical company focused on safety, innovation, and growth, we are faced with a multitude of challenges including the need to be compliant in diverse areas encompassing environmental, financial, safety, and security. In this pursuit, information technology (IT), driven by security and compliance, is a key enabler to achieving business goals.

"If there is one philosophy that I have learned and emphasized on, it is that security must be— inconvenient"

Over the last several years, the leadership from both IT and business has worked closely to build innovative applications and robust processes to address the evolving compliance mandates. Aware of the need to secure the networks to ensure data integrity, we have adopted a layered security approach. Through this approach, we prevent unwanted entities from getting into the network while successfully checking accidental or intentional loss of data from inside the network. The approach involves a series of policies, procedures, processes and people awareness programs to ensure a comprehensive security blanket over the network, data, and the entire IT infrastructure.

The business strategy implemented in our IT organization is termed ‘ELM Connect’. With ELM Connect, we ensure the IT department acts as an integrated group aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. ELMConnect is implemented via an Enterprise Architecture Board (EAB) that seeks to drive the practice of standardization, harmonization, simplicity, and effectiveness. The EAB balances new IT demand with cost effective, secure life cycle management of data, systems, and processes. Through EAB, we highlight the importance of being connected to the industry evaluating the latest suite of products.

Prioritizing Cybersecurity

For any company today, cybersecurity ranks high amongst the list of priorities when laying out the IT strategy. Escalating cybersecurity challenges require a broader understanding of data lifecycle management. Where is the data located? Who manages the data? How can we protect that data? All these questions are of paramount value in today’s nefarious online-driven business world. Along the same lines, we are seeing greater governance requirements by the national and the regional authorities that require the leadership to be more alert and proactive. Looking at the issue from a business perspective rather than an IT issue, we should view cybersecurity and compliance as an enabler that differentiates a company in its’ marketplace.

Encouraging Awareness

A key factor that ‘keeps me awake at night’is the lack of awareness. It’s critical for us to realize that we have to be constantly vigilant not just at work but in everyday life as well. People’s everyday habits must be tuned to tackle cyber threats. It is both a personal and a professional necessity. To this end, we provide employee awareness training and feature videos to bring the awareness that cybersecurity is not just an IT responsibility but a shared responsibility wherein every employee is an active participant. We ask everybody to be vigilant and follow the rules and guidelines. These measures help them to be aware of the potential pitfalls and to protect themselves and their colleagues.

If there is one philosophy that I have learned and emphasized on, it is that security must be—inconvenient. We all are quick to complain when processes are less convenient, perhaps smack of bureaucracy, but where security is at stake—what is easy may be too risky. The use of encryption, frequently changed complex passwords, minimized user administration rights on endpoint devices all designed to add discipline and all inevitably being less convenient to the user. We need to build not so user-friendly protocols and through regular, effective communication make our colleagues aware of why they are required.

During our internal conversations, we assess how effectively employees are adopting the rules and guidelines. Having spent substantial dollars on purchasing purposeful applications within our layered approach, it becomes an absolute necessity to educate people about the functionality of the applications to best protect our data assets. My view is that it is IT’s responsibility to be up-to-date about the recent developments in the industry. We must consider the risks we have faced so far and lead the changes that are to be implemented. Our objective is to provide comprehensive guidelines and best practices to implement them globally.

Aligning Security with Capability

IT organizations frequently rely on external support agencies to provide services and capability beyond their full-time employees. This increases agility, flexibility, and helps them balance budget spending. Security must also be dealing with third-party consultancies that bring their laptops and devices into our networks for data access or as data processors on our behalf through cloud offerings. As data controllers, it is necessary for us to make sure that they do not risk security while accessing or processing data.

We are also looking up to leading technology providers to help us manage our security portfolio. For instance, I was pleased to learn about the partnership between IBM and Cisco to have a broader focus on cybersecurity. I believe that high value partnerships such as this will go a long way in developing a suite of sophisticated cybersecurity products and technologies.  

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