Beyond the hype: What the C-Suite should know about SASE

Digital businesses face a perfect storm of value chain fragmentation, increased operational complexity due to vendor sprawl and pressure to deliver GenAI business outcomes, while confronting a spike in increasingly complex AI-augmented cyber attacks. If deployed correctly, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) can help deliver the required cybersecurity and network performance.

Enterprises often adopt a reactive approach, taken after a data breach incident or non-compliance with industry regulations, before investing in their networking and security infrastructures. Unfortunately, by this point, it is too late. You need to get ahead of the curve with a secure, robust infrastructure that is accessible from anywhere.

A Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) strategy can help to address these growing concerns head-on. It will also help you secure a competitive edge through democratizing data at scale, cloud-native SaaS utilization and safe adoption of GenAI tools. But to make SASE work for you, you must get your overarching strategy right.

Carving an executive focus for SASE

Infrastructure is pervasive in the daily workings of any enterprise. It is pivotal to business in the data-driven, digital economy. However, despite its criticality, SASE strategy is often delegated to IT and networking managers. For success, the C-suite must address cybersecurity and network operations directly. Executive leadership can help drive the organization’s SASE strategy and support the business roadmap.

Your enterprise, like many, has probably bought into multi-vendor environments, leading to complexity and multiple fragmented silos. This impedes visibility and drives increased operational complexity and gaps in the attack surface. It also makes it challenging to address sophisticated AI-augmented cyber threats, which are rapidly growing in volume and complexity.

This historical approach is no longer tenable. It creates ever-increasing gaps in your attack surface and fails to enable the business to deliver increased shareholder value. A strategic, holistic approach that embraces SASE is vital.

A well-executed SASE strategy can get you out of this technical jungle through a risk-based, data-driven framework for network and cybersecurity operations that can deliver tangible business value and ROI.

SASE is a boardroom issue

SASE is relevant across your entire business and C-suite. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) want to ensure their infrastructures are secure while fully optimized to meet financial targets and foster competitive advantage. SASE delivers on this.

At the same time, SASE enables Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) to secure the network at the edge and receive real-time contextual data for actionable intelligence to address your growing attack surface risk.

We recommend that Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) use a SASE use case approach that is targeted at delivering ROI within six months. Finally, from the perspective of a Chief Data and Analytics Officer (CDAO), SASE provides the foundation for robust, secure “data at scale” to drive business outcomes and sustainable differentiation.

Any executive interested in maintaining a level of cyber risk within the bounds of risk appetite and tolerance should know how Zero Trust and SASE can work together. Zero Trust is focused on controlling user access to the network and addressing privacy, governance, compliance and cybersecurity challenges.

As technology advances in our cloud-native, data-driven economy, so do the risks. All members of the C-suite must understand that employees will create cyber hazards as the adoption of AI-augmented analytics and generative AI increases. An effective SASE strategy will facilitate the safe and secure application of Gen AI use cases, such as ChatGPT, to be deployed.

Charting the right path

The business case for SASE is compelling regarding reduced capital expenditure, enhanced performance, operational efficiency and a heightened security posture. But there are hurdles to overcome.

Every business is unique, and the approach must match your ambitions and technology landscape. A SASE execution roadmap is complex and challenging. With no one-size-fits-all solution available off the shelf, you must define your business requirements and expected outcomes to create the right SASE strategy. This includes picking the right partner and solutions to realize a future SASE target state and having the right skills for continuous improvement. Executives across the C-suite must buy into this strategy to avoid limited business agility, ROI frustration and heightened risk.

Keys to effective SASE plans

Creating an enterprise-wide SASE strategy that takes an integrated, holistic approach to cloud, networks and security is critical. It must also be coupled with the ongoing business strategy, which is why C-suite input is vital.

Here are five tips to help you move forward successfully on the SASE journey:

  1. Build a business case for SASE, focusing on business value realization, risk-based networks and cybersecurity ambitions. Don’t procure technology in vendor silos for its own sake.
  2. Prioritize SASE execution for use cases that deliver tangible business ROI within six months.
  3. Ensure your management function goes “all in” on AI and understands its opportunities and risks. SASE will enable safe, secure Gen AI data use cases, such as ChatGPT data propagation to be successfully deployed. This reduces risk while allowing real, sustainable business differentiation.
  4. Consider the importance of real-time contextual data insights to manage the increasingly complex threat landscape proactively. A strategic partner can help to deliver this increasingly important capability.
  5. Assess and align core skills to highlight any weaknesses in the organization. You may require a fully-managed or co-managed service to resolve talent gaps and scale your SASE deployment to satisfy business outcomes.

SASE requires an ongoing commitment

A SASE strategy is not a tick-box exercise that gets delegated. It needs to be continually revisited to satisfy wider business needs. This is where sponsorship across C-suite executives is pivotal in making the business change, which SASE will bring, both effective and fruitful.

To learn more about why the C-suite must embrace an understanding of SASE to benefit from business agility, accelerated transformation, optimized operations and enhanced security posture, download our e-book SASE: a C-suite priority.

David Andrew
David Andrew

David is a Senior Consulting Partner within Orange Business focusing on network-native cybersecurity, cloud strategy, SASE strategy, cloud-native data and AI transformations. He works closely with our ISV ecosystem partners and our data-network-cybersecurity experts to lead advisory and digital infrastructure guidance to the C-suites of our enterprise customers.