7 Tips For Talking To Company Leaders About Data Security

Need to approach a manager or board about data security? Here’s how to make sure it goes smoothly.

Cyber Security

Do you need to sell a data security or IT plan to company leaders? Whether it’s a full presentation or just a short but urgent talk with a manager about strategy, it’s important to make your point well…even if company leaders don’t know much about data systems. Ideally, all business decision makers should have some understanding of data policies these days…but we’re still working on that. For now, here are the top tips for approaching bosses.

1. Plan for a Short Amount of Time

We’re not saying your bosses have short attention spans…but the further up the company ladder you go, the less time you will have to explain your side. That’s just how it works. Presentations at the highest levels are kept to around 15 minutes even for urgent issues. A conversation in the office may be informal, but managers won’t want to spend much more than that on a topic before getting back to their work. Sometimes you might get even less of a chance. So treat your data security strategy like an elevator speech: Short and sweet, nailed down to a few points that you can explain in just a couple minutes.

2. Learn What Your Leaders Know

It’s a superb idea to find out how much tech experience that your business leaders have. If they tend to be more actively involved in data decisions, you can dive a little deeper into complex subjects and throw in some mainstream acronyms to help save time and respect their current knowledge level. If the leaders definitely do not have any experience in tech or data subjects, then forget about using acronyms or industry terms – instead, make your descriptions far more universal. Note that this isn’t always an age issue, but rather connected to leadership specialties and the past projects they have overseen.

3. Bring a Graph

One graph. That’s it. A graph that can fit on a single page. PowerPoint presentations are rarely your friend what trying to talk about data security. If you have information to support your point, then put it on a single graph that represents the issue and succinctly as possible. Busy managers rarely have time or patience to try to understand a whole slideshow or report, but they can look at one graph. Anyone can do that. The type of graph that you choose can vary, but pick a format that allows you to show data very clearly. An alternative is a single spreadsheet where you tweak a number or two to show overall impact – a slightly more sophisticated option that could be useful.

4. Brainstorm Your Communication

This is an excellent idea, especially for longer meetings with leaders. It’s likely they will struggle to understand things from your highly technical perspective. So before you start, have a brainstorming session and think about the communication options you can use to reach everyone. Settle on one or two really strong metaphors that accurately explain your ideas.

5. Skip ROI for Cost-Benefit Analysis

ROI is a tricky issue to tackle when explaining systems and security. It’s better to focus more on a basic cost-benefit analysis, which allows you to note the fines and losses that arise from data attacks, leaks or theft. Saying, “Here’s what we stand to lose if these measures aren’t implemented” can be a very powerful motivator.

6. Review Compliance and Benchmark Data

Be prepared to show your bosses what your competitors are doing here, and what current or upcoming regulations require. These are common questions, and it’s a great topic to bring up if they prove your point about much-needed change. It’s also a good idea to track down your sources and double-check the latest data: You may “know” the right answers to these questions, but find out the current news and details, so it doesn’t sound like you’re saying it off the top of your head.

7. Repeat Yourself

Find your bottom line, and say it two to three times. Many business leaders want this bottom line more than anything, but they may have trouble recognizing what it is if you only mention it once. So say it early, and say it as you wrap up, and maybe throw it in the middle too. In fact, if every sentence is some form of, “Once again, this is what we need to do,” that’s probably a good idea.

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