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Office of the CISO: Before and after outsourcing

January 10, 2024

Authored by RSM Canada LLP

Joel A. Humphrey, CPA, CA shared this article

ARTICLE | January 10, 2024

Protecting your organization against cyber threats is hard enough, but managing the policies, procedures and planning activities of digital security in today’s environment is exponentially more difficult. Maintaining continuity, hiring and retaining qualified staff, integrating new technology, managing a budget, keeping up with evolving risks—it’s a nonstop job only outpaced by the relentless cyber threats themselves.

Some middle market organizations keep their office of the CISO in-house, operating under the assumption that handling threats this way is more cost effective than outsourcing them. And maybe at one time it was. But the labor shortage, increased cyber threats and the complexity of cloud security are prompting many middle market organizations to reconsider their approach.

Drawn from conversations with security providers who are in the cyber trenches, this use case looks at the challenges of keeping the office of the CISO in-house and what life looks like when middle market organizations outsource that work.

What’s a CISO?

An organization’s chief information security officer (CISO) is an important member of the leadership team whose key duties include:

  • Security program governance activities
  • Advising the C-suite and board on security challenges
  • Managing relationships with security vendors/partners
  • Planning for new technology, tools and solutions
  • Offering insights for an organization’s strategic planning

1. Continuity and staffing

Unemployment is down, wages are up and cybersecurity professionals are in demand. What’s good for workers is challenging for middle market CISOs. The tight labor market makes it harder than ever to hire and retain qualified staff. Bigger organizations—with bigger budgets—cherry-pick top talent, leaving mid-market CISOs with little choice but to overpay to retain their team or constantly find and train new staff.

An outsourced office of the CISO (also called a virtual CISO) calls a halt to staffing and continuity stresses. If there’s any turnover, another qualified specialist is right there to step in and resume the work. The burden of training is also absorbed, ensuring the most up-to-date protocols are employed and saving middle market companies an enormous amount of time and expense.


Before outsourcing security, an in-house office of the CISO must always be concerned with continuity. Any downtime on a small IT staff can be catastrophic and expose the organization to critical threats. However, with a virtual CISO, security tasks, staffing and retention concerns are alleviated, so your company can focus on business operations instead.

2. Scalability and coverage

Most organizations pursue new technologies as a pathway to greater success, better sales or more customers; security is usually an afterthought (and even then it’s only thought of after a problem arises). But each new technology presents all-new risks. For an in-house office of the CISO, new technologies mean more to manage. Most middle market companies’ in-house teams are already stretched thin, and continual digital transformation is stretching their time and coverage thinner.

By outsourcing security, scalability and coverage cease to be concerns. The virtual CISO helps ensure there are no gaps in continuity that could generate vulnerabilities. And as your business scales, a virtual CISO can also offer guidance, policies and procedures that support your organization at every stage.


Before outsourcing security, an in-house office of the CISO must decide how to allocate limited resources. More technology and more users mean more risk and more threats. Organizations may be aware that they’re increasing security risks, but they’re unlikely to resist implementing technologies that could increase business or create a competitive edge.

When you outsource the office of the CISO to an advisor, they should cover security program governance activities, communicate challenges to leadership and work with security vendors and partners to help manage products and services for your organization. With experience across industries, we support your growth by keeping your leadership team up to date on trends and challenges in the marketplace.

3. Predictability and cost control

Constantly evolving threats make it difficult to nail down what resources are actually needed. An in-house office of the CISO must handle the aforementioned staffing challenges, as well as the need for nonstop security coverage. It’s hard to put a number on an organization’s security (just ask any company that’s been breached); however, CISOs must somehow try to predict and manage a fixed budget even in an environment that is constantly changing and evolving.

By outsourcing security, fixed expenses can be anticipated and budgeted. Your advisor should provide an all-inclusive monthly subscription pricing model that removes uncertainty and allows for predictability. Your advisor will eliminate the need for training and maintaining an in-house CISO, and any pricing factors in expected changes, new technology and increased risks.


Before outsourcing security, an in-house office of the CISO must try to create, manage and stick to a budget, all while protecting the organization from an increasing number of catastrophic threats. For middle market organizations, even something as minor as having to replace a team member could create budgetary havoc. However, after outsourcing the office of the CISO, cost control and predictability are easier to maintain.

Outsourcing security may have seemed like a luxury years ago, but with the rapid increase in digitalization, a tight labor market and the need for nonstop vigilance, outsourcing the office of the CISO makes more sense than ever. Middle market organizations in particular struggle in this regard. You can better protect your organization—and your budget—by outsourcing your office of the CISO to a trusted team of advisors. The virtual Office of the CISO can help your organization better manage security both now and as you grow.

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