For companies today, digital transformation poses a "do-or-die" proposition — in many cases, literally.
Two-thirds of organizations are actively pursuing a transformation, as annual worldwide spending on the technologies and services that drive these transformations will reach nearly $2 trillion by 2022, up from $1.25 trillion this year, according to separate research reports from TechTarget and IDC.
The stakes are high because established companies are being pressured by startups that seek to disrupt markets by exclusively promoting mobile apps — instead of physical stores/locations — to target customers. In response, large brands are inventing immersive apps and online services to deliver new features and redefine the customer experience.
They're doing so because they feel they have no choice, as staying on the sidelines could result in their eventual demise: Nearly two-thirds of C-suite, IT, and business decision-makers feel that a failure to launch new digital services will lead to reduced revenue, and 55% say it will eliminate their company's competitive differentiation, according to research from Oracle. Half say a lack of these services will cause both a loss of customers and brand perception/relevance. It's no wonder, then, that 85% believe that the launch of new digital services is critical to their business strategy.
What's more, they're in a hurry to get into the game: Nine of 10 prioritize speed to market, with half of decision-makers believing they should be able to launch a new digital service in just a few days, according to the Oracle findings. Subsequently, the entire commerce landscape has evolved to the point where three-quarters of companies either offer "inherently" digital subscription services (like Netflix or Airbnb) or digital subscription services positioned around physical products (such as connected cars, home security systems, or Internet of Things-connected services).
Although consumers benefit from the intensified competition, the bet-the-company nature of these transformations demands alignment and leadership across executive, IT, security, and other functions. To address this need, a job role called "digital transformation architect" is emerging as a business reality — a senior professional who performs as a hub interface for CISOs, CIOs, CEOs, the C-suite, marketers, and developers. This architect objectively weighs these experts' input in pursuing the transformation mission while making sure that overarching strategies and execution are not tripped up by unexpected security and risk issues.
For certain, acting as the prime ambassador for digital strategic goals while seeking to minimize cyber threat issues requires a skillful balancing act. Here are two core areas on which the architects must focus to lead their organizations to a digital transformation that is not only successful but secure.
1. Enforce Access and Identity
In the online world, trust is too often broken, such as when cyber thieves swipe user credentials and hijack accounts for their own gain. By deploying effective identity and access management (IAM) programs, transformation architects put a stop to the exploitation of their customer-facing digital presence and offerings. As defined by Gartner, IAM is the security discipline that enables the "right individuals to access the right resources at the right times for the right reasons." It ensures appropriate access to resources across increasingly heterogeneous technology environments while meeting increasingly rigorous compliance standards, according to Gartner.
Digital transformation architects play a prime role in helping organizations tailor identity and access safeguards according to risk tolerance and requirements. Depending on organizations' industry, customer base, back-end security layers, and regulatory responsibilities for spotting fraud or intrusions, architects confer with security and IT team leaders to make sure new digital interfaces and investments do not stretch risk beyond what is necessary to measurably capitalize on transformation opportunities.
2. Keep the Consumer/User Engaged
Yes, organizations must invest in IAM tools so that only authorized users are accessing their products and services. It just takes one significant breach, after all, to inflict devastating brand reputational damage and the resulting lost customers and revenue.
However, if businesses set up too many authorization barriers, they risk overwhelming their users and the ensuing friction can lead to customer churn. Thus, digital transformation security architects are tasked to oversee the development of authentication requirements that are as unobtrusive as possible to eliminate the friction. They have to go beyond traditional (and often vulnerable) approaches such as enforcing password complexity, relying on tokens, captchas, and PIN codes.
Digital transformation amounts to a very big bet. It takes large investments to reinvent a company through new apps and online services — a transition that expands the attack surface and, therefore, invites greater risks. Yet, introducing too many protective measures to "tighten up" the environment will turn away the very customers who drive success. That's why the architects must work with both the security side and business units to engage users while safeguarding their experiences. With this, the path to a fully realized transformation appears much clearer and easy to navigate — for the architect, the CISO, the CEO, and everyone else with a stake in the game.
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