Concept of Operations (CONOPS) - The Missing Link of Program-Level Cybersecurity & Data Protection Guidance
A Concept of Operations (CONOPS) document provides user-oriented guidance that describes crucial context from an integrated systems point of view (e.g., mission, operational objectives and overall expectations), without being overly technical or formal. A CONOPS is meant to:
- Benefit stakeholders by establishing a baseline “operational concept” to establish a conceptual, clearly-understood view for everyone involved in the scope of operations described by the CONOPS.
- Record design constraints, the rationale for those constraints and to indicate the range of acceptable solution strategies to accomplish the mission and any stated objectives.
- Contain a conceptual view that illustrates the top-level functionality in the proposed process or system.
A CONOPS is not a set of policies, standards or procedures, but it does compliment and support those documents. A CONOPS straddles the territory between an organization's centrally-managed policies/standards and its decentralized, stakeholder-executed procedures, where a CONOPS serves as expert-level guidance that is meant to run a specific capability or function within an organization's cybersecurity department. An organization's Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are expected to use a CONOPS as a tool to help communicate user needs and system characteristics to developers, integrators, sponsors, funding decision makers and other stakeholders.
Several ComplianceForge documents are essentially CONOPS documents, where those CONOPS-like documents are (1) more conceptual than procedures and (2) are focused on providing program-level guidance to define and mature a specific capability that is called for by policies and standards (e.g., operate a "risk management program"). Examples of ComplianceForge products that provide program-level guidance to define a function-specific concept of operations include:
- Risk management (e.g., Risk Management Program (RMP))
- Vulnerability management (e.g., Vulnerability & Patch Management Program (VPMP))
- Incident response (e.g., Integrated Incident Response Program (IIRP))
- Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery (e.g., Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP))
- Secure engineering practices (e.g., Security & Privacy By Design (SPBD))
- Pre-production testing (e.g., Information Assurance Program (IAP))
- Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) (e.g., Third-Party Security Management (TPSM))
- Configuration management (e.g., Secure Baseline Configurations (SBC))