Digital technology has brought with it great promise and potential to change the way humans live. A lot of its potential has already been explored which is evident in the way we leverage digital technology at our workplace and at our homes. However, it would be fair to say that there are still significant parts of the world – government, businesses, sector and people, that have still not migrated to the digital realm. The current Covid-19 crisis, which has put significant constraints on an individual’s movements and interactions, is likely to accelerate the adoption of digital technology. However, as companies embrace digital technology and transition to the digital 2.0 phase, they need to establish a 360-degree approach to their business. The primary goal should be to ensure that they are able to balance the benefits that accrue from digital technology with the risks that might stem from it.
Envisaging the requirements of a fully technology enabled business
Generally, the severity level of a particular threat is directly correlated to a companies’ ability to implement countermeasures to either stem the threat or mitigate its impact. For companies to thrive in digital 2.0, it will require three key things:
Foster a risk-enabled culture
For a company to optimally leverage the benefits of digital technology it is imperative that every function of the business thinks and behaves ‘digitally’. Rather than working in silos, each function of the business will need to be educated to become ‘digitally literate’. It is important to envisage the risks that can stem from interactions both within and outside the company and establish a set of possible responses to mitigate the same. Companies must create a digital playbook that clearly articulates the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the ecosystem highlighting the risks that can stem from each action. The human resources (HR) function should relook at the talent requirements for a digital organisation. While technology has myriad benefits, the output will always only be as good as the input.
This means that people behind the systems ie. the talent, needs to be able to meet the requirements of the ‘new normal’. These requirements could include various aspects like digital proficiency and comfort with technology to assessing accountability and transparency. Additionally, HR should focus on developing a consistent communication strategy that enables and supports a 'digital culture' as employees step up with technologically advanced work structures. At the operations and execution level, one needs to have stress-tested back up plans that can be implemented quickly in the case of an emergency. Further, in a WFH model, there should also be a set of remedial measures in place to respond to connectivity issues, client privacy requirements and compliance breach. The overarching framework should be architected at the board level with a risk committee creating and supervising a robust and comprehensive risk strategy.
Reshape the way we communicate
One of the biggest benefits of ‘going digital’ is an ability to interact with clients in a seamless manner. Digital technology has morphed the boundaries between organisation and client interactions, enabling companies to become an integral part of the customers’ journey. Companies are now leveraging multiple digital channels like chatbots and live webinars to foster a stronger relationship with their clients. In the future, the use of such channels is likely to increase manifold as companies become more digitally enabled. However, being omnipresent has its own perils that organisations must recognise in order to maintain the sanctity of their relationships with the clients. For example, chatbots are all the rage right now due to their ability to respond to basic customer queries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, chatbots come with their own set of risks that could include spoofing/impersonating of someone else, data tampering and data theft. Thus, it is imperative to incorporate security protocols that can reduce system vulnerability. Additionally, when there are multiple channels interacting with the client then it is important to ensure that a cohesive message is being shared with the client that is reflective of the company’s values and philosophy.
Online security is likely to become the focal point of companies as their reliance on digital increase in the future. While a mass migration towards the digital mode has meant placing greater reliance on a companies’ digital systems it has also put corporate cybersecurity systems under immense pressure. The proliferation of Covid – 19 has not only precipitated a shift to a WFH model but it has also afforded companies an opportunity to test their cyber resilience by underscoring the importance of strong encryption, reliable networks and effective cyber defences. In order to effectively reduce exposure to technology risk, a company must create a structure that regularly assesses the nature, scope and impact of a digitally enabled ecosystem. It has become imperative for companies to delve deeper into their existing cyber policies and make them more effective for an environment where there are added issues related to remote work capabilities, VPN capacity, and insecure Wi-Fi.
Instead of using yesterday’s logic to resolve for future threats, companies should look at risk through a digital lens and proactively create policies to mitigate the same in the future.
Views are personal.
The author is president- Risk Advisory, Deloitte India.