This is what companies can do to build digital trust. Source: Shutterstock

This is what companies can do to build digital trust. Source: Shutterstock

How can your business build digital trust?

INFORMATION is the lifeblood of most organizations today, and customers are increasingly transacting in a digital world. As a result, it’s important for companies to build digital trust — so current and future customers will be comfortable trusting them with their data.

We’ve all seen what happens when consumers lose trust in a businesses’ ability to protect their information.

Be it the Equifax or Facebook, a data breach causes significant damage to the reputation and sustainability of a business in the modern times we live in.

Both businesses have lost much of their market value as a result of losing “digital trust” in the eyes of their customers.

According to a new report by PwC, companies that show the connected world how to lead in safety, security, reliability, privacy, and data ethics will be the titans of tomorrow.

It’s an important step in the digital transformation journey of every business, something boardrooms and managers need to start thinking about right away.

Here are some findings from the report to help companies get started with building more digital trust with customers (and other stakeholders):

# 1 | Engage security experts at the start of digital transformations

As companies charge into digital transformation programs, they understand the vulnerabilities created by them. As a result, 91 percent of businesses already bring in a cybersecurity consultant to advise and guide them.

However, PwC’s report found that only 53 percent include proactive management of cyber and privacy risks by design in the project plan and budget “fully from the start”.

That percentage is relatively higher in financial services, health, and TMT sectors and relatively lower in consumer markets, among respondents from medium and large companies.

As a result, experts believe that cybersecurity and privacy personnel must be included in digital transformation projects from day one.

Further, internal capabilities with regards to designing, building, and sustaining digital transformation initiatives must be evaluated at the start to determine if external resources are needed.

# 2 | Upgrade your talent and leadership team

In a digital world, companies need to create more digital leadership roles.

According to the report, key roles such as chief information security officer, chief security officer, chief privacy officer, chief risk officer, and chief data officer are often absent at many companies.

Less than half of respondents say their company has adequately identified the executives responsible for cybersecurity (39 percent) and privacy (40 percent).

Only 38 percent say they are very comfortable with the sufficiency of their cybersecurity and privacy workforce.

If businesses want to get serious about digital trust, they first need to hire the right people with the right skills.

# 3 | Tie security to business goals

Cybersecurity is something that’s been on the top of the agenda for most businesses going digital.

In fact, because of the duty of a company to protect the data it collects and the significant costs and penalties attached to failing at that duty, it’s important for businesses to tie security to business goals.

According to PwC, companies must focus on:

  • Embedding cybersecurity into new products and/or services
  • Conducting risk, regulatory and compliance assessments
  • Conducting cybersecurity framework assessments that align business imperatives to cybersecurity controls
  • Refreshing cybersecurity strategies and plans

# 4 | Build lasting trust around data

Among businesses worth US$100 million or more, only about one half say they are making large investments in data governance, in creating transparency in the use and storage of data, and toward increasing the control individuals have over their data.

In fact, according to PwC, many medium and large businesses in key sectors are not “very comfortable” that they have identified their most valuable and sensitive digital assets.

To ensure companies take the best care of their data, experts suggest implementing data governance programs that determine “not only where sensitive data lives, but also the value to the business and how to protect it”.

PwC suggests that businesses must focus on managing risks for the whole data lifecycle, including creation, storage, using, sharing, archiving, and destruction in order to build lasting trust around data.

# 5 | Be proactive in compliance

PwC found that the top digital compliance and ethics challenges worldwide include staying aware of the latest regulatory developments (41 percent), complying with current regulations (37 percent), and preparing for future regulations (34 percent).

Take the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for example.

Fewer than half of companies worth US$100 million or more told PwC that they are fully ready to comply with the GDPR. That’s a significant risk to businesses seeking to build their digital trust.

According to PwC, businesses operating across different geographies should comply with the highest standard.

The boundaries of such an approach should be the sum of all the rules — which will not only gain the confidence of consumers but also regulators.

# 6 | Keep pace with innovation

We now have more connected devices than the number of people on the planet and expect more connected devices powered by sensors and 5G to be deployed as we bring the vision of the internet of things (IoT) to life.

Data is the currency of these sensors and connected devices, and not only do they make businesses more vulnerable — they put customers at risk too. As a result, a majority of businesses are conscious of the risk that IoT devices create and are actively looking to build stronger checks and controls.

However, the concern isn’t limited to IoT. PwC suggests that businesses review each of their digital investments and projects and try to understand the security risks they pose so as to avoid leaving customers (and the business’ digital trust) at risk.