Your Vertical Is . . .

Companies often demand to know what their peers in a particular vertical market are doing within the realm of information security before making new decisions. “We’re in retail” or “healthcare” or “financial services” they will say, “and we want to do what everyone else in our industry is doing.” Why? The TCP/IP revolution has changed everything, including how vertical markets should be viewed. In the old analog world, you could define yourself by your product or service, but no longer. Today it doesn’t matter if your company sells plastic flowers or insurance — what defines you is your data and how you handle it.

When advising Forrester clients on InfoSec, the first question I ask is, “what compliance mandates are you under?” Like it or not, compliance determines how data is handled and that defines your vertical in our data-driven society. For example, I often say that, “PCI is the world’s largest vertical market.” It is a single global standard that affects more companies than not. You may think you are a hotel and your vertical is hospitality, but if you handle credit cards your real vertical — from a data perspective — is PCI.

Data defines markets. Look at your data, your transactions, and your process, and map them to your compliance initiatives. That will determine your digital — not analog — vertical. Using this measure, you can determine your security baseline and compare yourself to companies who must handle data in the same manner as you to help guide your security decisions.

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