Building digital trust to support digital transformation and a distributed workforce

Digital Transformation

In the UK, we have recently witnessed several issues around trust. These issues center around the ethics and control of data access and use, interaction through the Internet, digital risk resilience and how digital technology has eroded trust. In particular, this applies to trust in the government, whereby politicians have been called into question over their behavior, policies, protocols, appropriate use of technology, and more, especially post-pandemic.

To this point, the current stand-off between the Covid inquiry and the UK government calls trust into question again. In this case, the debate is about the use of appropriate messaging platforms as the government made some of the most important decisions in a generation.

Whether an enterprise is in the public or private sector, secure and compliant communication on enterprise-authorized channels is crucial to enabling accountable decision-making and maintaining employee and customer/consumer trust. Stakeholders must be able to trust that data privacy and confidential information are being handled appropriately.

WhatsApp poses significant risks to security and privacy

The government’s use of WhatsApp, for example, for Covid discussions and unrelated issues, reinforces the urgency of implementing policies that mandate the use of authorized communication channels by all employees within an organization. Such policies are vital not only for regulatory compliance but also for safeguarding data privacy and maintaining resilience against cyber threats and, more importantly, for ensuring trust.

In this case, consumer-grade applications like WhatsApp pose significant risks to security and privacy. They are not appropriate for sensitive high-level conversations, particularly official government communications. In fact, every organization that understands the value of privacy and protection of its employee interactions should be developing policies around how workers use consumer-grade channels and moving them towards approved channels over which the business has greater control.

It is easier to lose trust than to gain it

Why is this important? It’s easier to lose trust than to gain it. Organizations large or small, private, or public sector, are learning that trust - digital trust - is vital to success in today’s environment of expanding digital infrastructure and increased reliance on technology to support a distributed workforce.

When talking about digital trust this refers to "the confidence users have in the ability of people, technology and processes to create a secure digital world". Companies earn digital trust by showing their users they can provide key pillars of this trust including the privacy, security and reliability of their applications or devices.

As digital transformation across industries continues, fueling a growing wave of cyber threats and headline-making data breaches, digital trust must rise as a strategic priority for organizations around the world.

The push and pull of digital services on trust

As the future unfolds, we will continue to see the push and pull of digital services and the impact these have on digital trust. With the growing prevalence of cloud-based services, greater volumes of data are being collected and analyzed than ever before, driving the need for more automation to provide insights into the data, as well as artificial intelligence innovations that promise to alleviate pain points experienced by organizations and their customers.

Meanwhile, consumers are ever more aware of and sensitive to data breaches as cyber threats increase in number and sophistication. Customers – and employees – are becoming more curious and cautious about how their personal information is used. Moreover, while rules and regulations regarding where and how data is stored and transmitted are changing, businesses recognize that their customers cannot tolerate disruptions to the digital infrastructure that supports their work and daily lives. That said, trust is a prerequisite to overcoming consumer reluctance to share the personal data required to generate high-quality organizational insight.

A commitment to digital trust makes organizations more successful

According to a 2023 ISACA State of Digital Trust survey of more than 8,000 digital trust professionals, 76 percent said digital trust is important to digital transformation and 81 percent agreed that demonstrating a commitment to digital trust will ultimately make organizations more successful.

Commenting on the survey, Rolf von Roessing, ISACA Evangelist, said: "Cyberattacks are on the rise and customers increasingly recognize their sophisticated nature. They’ll therefore expect businesses to take the necessary steps to protect and secure their personal data. Those who adopt a company-wide strategy to build digital trust will establish themselves as a credible authority among customer bases and sustainably reap the long-term rewards."

In today’s digital-first economy, organizations can’t earn digital trust without developing a strong security posture designed to safeguard data and maintain compliance with evolving data privacy and industry regulations.

To strengthen their security posture, enterprises are looking to partner with technology providers that protect data, reduce compliance risk, prevent unauthorized access to networks and systems as well as provide reliable and consistent services. Technology partners that don’t embed digital trust attributes like this in their solutions run the risk of losing business. Data from McKinsey shows that more than half of business buyers will stop doing business with organizations that don’t protect data.

A digital trust-enabling mobile messaging platform

As digital trust increasingly becomes a business enabler, enterprises need the right tools for securely advancing digital transformation and supporting a distributed workforce. Choosing a digital trust-enabling mobile messaging platform to create a secure, frictionless environment for business communication and collaboration that has security baked in reduces the cyberattack surface and ensures regulatory compliance.

Organizations that don’t adopt digital-trust enabling technologies like this run the risk of reputational damage, lawsuits, regulatory fines, and loss of consumer trust - all of which can erode the bottom line. By contrast, enterprises that are best positioned to build digital trust are more likely than others to see annual growth rates of at least 10 percent on their top and bottom lines, according to McKinsey.

Back to my opening remarks and the government’s use of WhatsApp, this is not owing to a lack of a suitable alternative. Enterprise-grade messaging platforms provide the same usability as a consumer-grade platform but with the necessary approach to security, accountability, and trust. A digital trust-enabled platform should provide the visibility to conduct inquiries without exposing any non-relevant information. Using platforms like this means organizations can build and sustain digital trust while reaping the benefits of fewer privacy breaches and cybersecurity incidents, stronger customer loyalty, and ultimately higher revenues.

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Anurag Lal is President, and CEO of NetSfere

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