For managed service providers (MSPs), building a compliance program from the ground up for an organization is a welcome challenge. But doing so without the full buy-in and active involvement of the organization can feel like an uphill battle – and one that is particularly challenging when working with small and medium-sized businesses.  

Because SMBs and startups often have an ever-changing nature, limited resources, and team members wearing many hats, integrating security into their workflow and policies poses unique challenges that can make compliance programs seem restrictive and rigid to employees.  

With the proper approach, though, MSPs can merge security programs with regular business operations. Apptega interviewed Garrett Brown, president and co-founder of Ihloom, on how to establish a successful cybersecurity compliance program by fostering a culture of security and gaining company-wide buy-in. The following strategies draw from that conversation. 

Understanding the “Why” 

In the early stages of establishing a compliance program, the sheer magnitude of the task can be overwhelming. Starting with identifying the reason behind pursuing compliance helps guide the implementation process. Often, companies aim to meet specific industry benchmarks, meet legal requirements, satisfy investor demands for meeting standards or frameworks, or fulfill contractual obligations.  

Understanding this motivation helps MSPs determine what steps to take first and align themselves with the organization’s goals. This communication can be the difference between employees seeing compliance as either an inconvenient task they must complete or a crucial security measure benefiting the company. As Brown puts it, "It's all about building relationships to figure out how you are going to communicate through and to the players."  

A Cultural Reset 

When working to implement a comprehensive compliance program, company-wide buy-in is essential. According to Brown, integrating security into company culture “helps employees understand how to enforce security controls and why they are so important, while also helping the company take accountability for their own security program.” 
This results in:  

  • Enhanced Employee Engagement: Employees who understand the importance of security are more likely to actively participate in training and other compliance measures. They become proactive advocates for security within the organization. 
  • Improved Alignment with Business Goals: By securing buy-in and setting up a regular check-in schedule, MSPs ensure that security efforts are consistent with overall business objectives. Clear deliverables and milestones keep leadership engaged and supportive. 
  • Efficient Compliance Integration: Collaborating with clients to set specific compliance goals and working backward from the end goal to achieve them streamlines the implementation process and ensures that compliance efforts are integrated into the organization's strategic objectives. 

Building a culture of security requires continuous effort, with open communication and ongoing buy-in serving as vital components. Compliance is not a one-off project, but “a cultural transformation that adapts and evolves with the changing cybersecurity landscape,” as Brown says. MSPs can lead by example, fostering a culture where employees are encouraged to be honest about mistakes and to proactively report issues. This level of transparency strengthens security measures and accountability because it provides opportunities to reinforce the culture of security and promote accountability within the organization.  

MSPs play a crucial role in helping organizations build a culture of security, which ultimately contributes to a successful compliance program. According to Brown, “an approach rooted in relationship-building, communication integration, and ongoing adaptation not only simplifies compliance efforts but also yields better results.” 

Listen to the full conversation here