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The Importance of Project Management in Cyber Security

Protecting the critical infrastructure, application estate, and company data is a massive responsibility that is much bigger than IT and cyber security. Technical teams are challenged with having a fundamental understanding of security programs. They are also challenged by the increasing number of moving people, parts, and processes around vulnerability management. Then there are security patches and a wide range of best practices required to support hybrid working from any device.

However, project managers are the unsung heroes who create the frameworks that ensure nothing falls through the cracks. 

For these reasons alone, the world of project management and cybersecurity are much closer than you might think. For example, project managers and their meticulous attention to detail will ensure that everyone follows the five main steps to ensure teams meet their specific project goals.


The 5 Phases of Project Management

Initiation is the beginning phase to ensure that the project starts in the right way. This is the opening phase which is focused on identifying project goals, priorities, risks, and deadlines. Getting multiple teams on the same page can be challenging and one of the many reasons why ITIL® offers a globally respected framework of best practices to ensure that everyone speaks the same language throughout the service management team. 

However, project managers will also be tasked with driving a proactive approach to cybersecurity. The second phase is all about planning which refers to the tasks and timelines required to execute the project. Predictably, execution is when it’s time to implement the plan. But this is just the beginning of your journey. 


Cyber security career change


It’s important to remember that you can only improve what you can measure, so monitoring plays such a crucial role in continuously checking project performance throughout the project as changes are implemented. For example, risks, deliverables, and budgets can all be measured against critical milestones throughout each project stage. In addition, data visualisation techniques such as status reports, dashboards, and scoreboards can all help key stakeholders monitor the progress.

Finally, closure refers to summarising the results and finalising the project. This process will look very similar during any project, and the fundamentals do not change upon adding cyber security components into the mix. Ultimately, all projects begin with a data-gathering exercise. The information collected helps project managers better understand their project goals, requirements, priorities, or risks.


Do cyber security project managers need to be technical?

The good news is that the project manager doesn’t need to be a cyber security expert due to the vast projects they undertake. But they will need a minimum understanding of the work that their project team members will be doing, so it’s advisable to at least embark on some form of fundamental cyber security training.

Ultimately, the project manager is the person who will oversee every aspect of the project from beginning to end. For example, suppose a PM understands cyber security or has a background in this field. In that case, they will be ideally placed to identify something that has been missed, question the current approach, or dare to ask why a particular technology has been chosen.

Cyber incident planning and response will be the foundations of any successful cyber security project. A project manager entering this field should feel confident about the importance of identifying threats and responding immediately with precision. From CompTIA, the Security+ certification can help develop basic security skills and improve how you lead a project team’s scope of work, and avoid unnecessary pitfalls.

However, the most critical skill set of the project manager challenged with bringing everything to life often begins with the APM project fundamentals and AgilePM® foundation. Then, with the ear of brand ambassadors and key stakeholders, they can help ensure that cyber security is everywhere, rather than getting bogged down in the intricate technical details.

As they gain experience, ambitious project managers can enhance their skill set by progressing to the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) and aiming for the AgilePM® Practitioner status. But once again, the teams that are often most successful have ensured that every team has at least achieved the ITIL® foundation to ensure that everyone uses the same terminology.



The Biggest Delusion Around Project Management in Cyber Security

An IT project manager will be the wearer of many different hats. But whether it’s a software development project or digital transformation initiative, cyber security will play a critical role in every phase of the project and its lifecycle. So, it’s time to finally retire the myth that cyber security is all about networks, applications, computers, or preventing unauthorised access.  

A few years ago, data was considered the most significant asset. But with GDPR fines of €20 million or 4% of worldwide turnover for unreported or poorly managed data breaches, data can quickly become the biggest liability within a business. Project management has a much broader scope than many realise, but cyber security should be at the heart of every new project, with data security always at the top of mind.

Cyber security needs to be embedded and incorporate risk assessment, and a project manager with knowledge and understanding in this area will offer employers significant value. If you’re considering a career in project management, arming yourself with cyber knowledge will ensure you bring value to any project. It can represent an ideal entry point and play a big part in future-proofing your career.

Whether you have a background in cyber security and want to break into project management or if you are already a project manager wanting to improve your cyber security knowledge, there are a wealth of opportunities waiting for you.

Project management and cyber security are forming a formidable partnership in businesses around the world, and it’s never been a better time for anyone to be a part of the solution that employers are searching for.


If you’d like to know more about the training and certification options available to you, get in touch with our specialist project management career consultants today. We’ve helped people from all backgrounds expand their career for more than a decade and our industry aligned training, study support and career services team are with you throughout every step of your career journey.