digital computer

A Look at the Top 10 Digital Trust Challenges – Part 2

Our examination of the challenges of building digital trust continues with a look at the important questions to ask about five more important digital trust issues, as explored in a recent article from PwC.

  1. Internet governance

Just a few decades ago, the Internet was imagined as a platform where people could freely exchange information in an open, egalitarian manner. But little remains of that vision today as governments and corporations around the world struggle with the question of how to govern the Internet without breaking up its power and promise.


In the United States, for example, the “net neutrality” debate has sparked tensions between Internet service providers that see no problem with creating a superfast Internet for those business users who can afford to pay premium prices, and consumer rights advocates who firmly believe in the idea of a single, equal Internet for all users. Internationally, a number of countries have put laws in place that restrict, to a greater or lesser degree, their citizens’ access to the Internet. But as more and more entities set up their own structures, barriers, and safeguards around Internet access, how can the regulatory balance address this growing fragmentation? And how should the gatekeepers of digital information, the ones who govern our web access, themselves be governed?

  1. Cyber security and citizen privacy

As more and more core societal functions move online, and as more and more of our physical life becomes connected to the Internet, there’s little doubt that cyber security is a paramount digital trust issue. Cyber security risks can hit at both the micro level, such as a hacker taking control of a connected car or home, and the macro level, such as the deployment of a cyber weapon that can target crucial energy infrastructure or mass transportation systems.

In response to these risks, governments and companies alike are understandably seeking to access, monitor, and control as much personal data as possible. But is there a limit to what and how much data can be accessed? What happens to sensitive personal data in the event of a leak or loss? What steps do governments and companies need to take to balance their demands for data control with their need to regain the trust of an increasingly wary and skeptical public?

  1. Digital resilience

Given the extent to which we rely on digital technology to perform day-to-day tasks without even thinking about it—checking in for flights, paying bills online, arranging transportation—disruptions and glitches are increasingly viewed as unacceptable occurrences. “Keeping the lights on,” as digital resilience is often called, is rapidly becoming a top business priority, and businesses that are unable to do so risk losing the confidence of their customers.

But when disruptions do occur, crisis response, the second component of digital resilience, is equally important. How can companies ensure they are reacting optimally to rapidly unfolding events? How can they respond to a crisis and manage the recovery process as quickly and effectively as possible? Those entities that can reassure their customers and stakeholders by minimizing the impact of unexpected IT outages and glitches will be best placed to build trust and resilience in a constantly changing world.

  1. Redefining ownership

privateOur concept of what it means to own something has been dramatically altered by digitization. The huge value shift from physical to virtual has made the question of property rights and value creation a rather fuzzy issue, and the significant grey areas that have emerged have increased the scope for disputes and the erosion of trust.

When works are distributed digitally, for example, could customer rights be reduced or revoked over time? Who actually owns personal data, the companies that collected it or the consumers the data pertains to? And what about cloud storage: how should the ability of cloud service providers to release information to third parties be governed? Interestingly, as corporate assets become increasingly digitized, these questions of ownership and value creation are particularly relevant to global tax strategies.

  1. Workplace automation

Automation in the workplace has been one of the major drivers of change, both positive and negative, in the fourth industrial revolution. It has improved productivity, product quality, workplace safety, and job creation in certain areas, but it has also been a key force in decimating jobs in traditional sectors, like manufacturing and logistics, and it certainly won’t stop there. Businesses and governments alike must therefore figure out how to win back the trust of those people that feel marginalized and on the wrong side of this new digital divide.

Does the answer lie in providing funded schooling so that workers’ skills can be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the economy brought on by technological advances? Perhaps, but the major difference between this revolution and those that preceded it is that the rate at which jobs will be displaced will be much faster than the pace at which humans can reskill. We must look, therefore, at what else history can teach us about shaping new laws and charters to mitigate the social chaos wrought by innovation, no matter how beneficial it may be in other ways.

digital tech

A Look at the Top 10 Digital Trust Challenges – Part 1

Given the potential of today’s rapidly evolving technology to create major risks as well as enormous opportunities, the question of digital trust has emerged as one of the defining issues of our era. Trust has always been situated at the very heart of a fully functioning society, but today, the institutions that have long protected key societal norms, like property rights and privacy ownership, are under huge strain now that digital disruption has challenged the traditional qualities and behaviors that have long defined trustworthiness.

So how can today’s institutions, and indeed the entire system, adapt in order to create trust within this new and constantly changing context of digital transformation? One of the first steps is to break the concept of digital trust down into its component parts. A recent article from global professional services firm PwC looks at 10 of the most important digital trust challenges that institutions and organizations must develop the capabilities to address. Read on to learn more about the critical questions surrounding the first five of these issues.

  1. Data privacy and usage

data securityCompanies of all sizes are now capable of collecting huge amounts of data on everyone they come into contact with, from customers to partners to employees; similarly, sophisticated analytics tools now allow people to leverage this data to create new knowledge and insights, thereby affecting how the data itself is used. And while public has been slow to realize just how much personal information is being collected and used by companies, the majority of consumers now rank data privacy and usage as one of their top digital trust concerns.

Against this backdrop, organizations must ask themselves some tough questions about their information governance strategies. What level of transparency, for example, are their customers entitled to? Can they legitimize data access and analysis through a customer application’s legal terms and conditions? How can they educate their customers and the public on managing their technology footprint? The challenge here lies in striking the right balance between the competing interests of individual privacy rights and the use of data for a greater benefit.

  1. The ethics of people data

People analytics is transforming talent management, turning the recruitment and retention of employees into a function that is much more scientific, fact-based, and linked to business strategy and performance than ever before. But what are the rules of behavior in this new operating environment? How much personal employee information is necessary or acceptable for employers to use?

Take, for example, the fact that many people today have little separation online between their personal lives and their professional existence. Are employers entitled to use information shared on social media platforms to make character decisions when hiring or to evaluate whether existing employees pose a risk to their organization? Are new governance guidelines and processes needed to ensure that such data is monitored and used ethically? What new policies could help manage trust issues around managerial use of personal information?

  1. Predictions and profiling

digital profileWhen big data is used to profile individuals and predict behavior, the business benefits, such as strategic workforce planning or targeted customer segmentation, are clear. But equally obvious are the issues that arise in relation to individual rights and privacy, both in a workplace context and in wider arenas like policing and national security.

If data allows us to predict behavior to a highly accurate degree, are institutions entitled to take steps before that behavior is acted on? What if public safety is at stake? Similarly, is it reasonable for employers who use predictive analytics to anticipate future workplace risks to shape policies that could impact specific individuals or groups in a punitive fashion?

  1. Algorithmic regulation

Algorithms and automated rules are rapidly coming to define more and more of our everyday lives. From the suggestions of “customers who purchased this also purchased these” on retail websites to automated credit card approvals, digital code is the new law of our era. But when the enormous power of these algorithms is combined with their significant lack of transparency, it’s clear that there is a massive trust issue at stake. Without clear transparency and accountability, for example, how can we be sure what companies are basing algorithmic decisions on? And, in the cases of algorithms being regulated by other algorithms, to what extent can we trust machines to effectively control other machines.

  1. Creating AI safeguards

Now that algorithms can learn and make predictions from data without the need for any human input, the machines that surround us are becoming smarter. But, science fiction-style speculation aside, is there a real risk that these algorithms might “go rogue” and take over? Do we need to have override controls that we can use, if necessary, to take control back from our machines? While there’s no clear answer to the contentious artificial intelligence debate, it’s clear that we must further explore the ethical and trust implications of this issue, particularly as collaborations between humans and machines become a more common feature in the workplace.


Spotlight on B2B Strategy in a Digital World

There’s no question that B2B companies have a lot to learn from B2C innovators when it comes to devising and implementing digital strategy. However, the subtleties that distinguish these two realms from each other are often overlooked in favor of simplified, direct comparisons (which tend to ignore the fact that it isn’t always possible to translate what works in the consumer sphere to a B2B context). The truth is, while there are certainly important lessons and opportunities to take from groundbreaking B2C companies, B2B nevertheless requires a different approach to digital strategy in determining the transformational path that is best suited to an industrial setting.

So how can B2B companies get digital strategy development right? According to a recent article from global management consulting firm Bain & Company, the first step is to understand some of the following key assumptions about what it means to do business in the B2B world today.

The difference between current and prior eras is measurable and dramatic.

e-commerceIt might be tempting for B2B businesses struggling with digital transformation to buy into the comforting notion that the buzz around digital technology in the marketplace is more hype than anything else, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that businesses today have changed at every organizational level due to the confluence of technologies like smart devices, low-cost networks, and powerful cloud-based computing. We now have four times more connected devices than we did just five years ago, leading to a corresponding 40-fold increase in data generation. There is no longer a clear line between products and services, and the boundary between individual customers and business customers is becoming equally blurred. Against this backdrop, dreaming big is not only possible, but it’s essential to a business’ very survival.

Disruption follows knowable directions.

The rapidly paced and dynamic changes that characterize our current era are certainly disruptive, but they don’t have to be disorienting. Actual disruption rarely comes out of nowhere; most often, there are discernable signs along the way. Innovations like smart buildings or autonomous vehicles, for example, were visible and widely discussed long before the technology was in place to make them a reality. In such a climate, it therefore becomes the job of digital leaders to read these trends, understand the impact they could have on the industry, and transform that insight into an actionable perspective on the future. It’s not an easy task, but the ability to define the direction of disruption means that there is one less uncontrolled variable to deal with in the digital equation.

Ecosystems must be taken into account.

airportThe complexity of the business ecosystems within which today’s B2B companies operate must not be overlooked. A digital strategy that favors an idealistic vision while ignoring the facts will ultimately prove to be unworkable. In the aviation industry, for example, it’s not difficult to imagine a best-case digital scenario, where integrated IT systems support state-of-the-art air traffic control systems and cutting-edge, fuel-efficient aircraft while also driving dramatic improvements to the customer experience. But pragmatically, the pace and scope of innovation is limited by many factors, including regulation, the expense of replacing aircraft before the end of their life cycle, and concerns about how digital innovation will affect safety and security. When it comes to digital strategy, therefore, leaders and executives have difficult decisions to make about how to achieve real progress in the face of systemic complexity.

Profit pools are shifting.

tractorIt’s not clear when, but ultimately, digital innovation is going to change which players in our economy are making the most money—as well as the ways in which they are making it. In the agricultural sphere, for example, there is a great deal of speculation as to whether the profits currently going to traditional equipment makers will ultimately be diverted to the producers of connected machines and the cloud-based infrastructure that runs and supports them. Consequently, B2B companies across all industries are struggling to figure out how to tap into the most profitable segments of their changing sectors to avoid being left behind.

So where does this leave the B2B leaders responsible for digital strategy? According to Bain & Company, the biggest challenge involved in building a strong, enduring digital strategy lies in striking the right balance between vision and pragmatism. To achieve this balance, Bain recommends three key principles:

Narrowing the field of vision—To keep digital initiatives actionable, it’s important to define both the company’s starting point and their long-term digital destination, then determine what investments are necessary to get from one to the other. Concentrating on a clear road map like this helps avoid the chaos that can come from trying to do too many things at once.

Making gradual progress with stepping stones—The general rule of thumb for any complex task is to break it into smaller, more manageable pieces, and digital strategy development is no exception. Companies should focus on moving step by step, launching one wave of initiatives and assessing its impact before moving on to the next.

Organizing along pathways—When digital activity is carefully coordinated along a handful of key pathways, companies have the best chance for building and keeping momentum. Operations, products and services, and the customer experience are some of the most important focus areas, and concentrating on these will help companies integrate digital initiatives into the foundation of their business.


Spotlight on Digital Talent, Part 1 – Roles You Need to Fill

The question of digital and technology talent is a hot topic in the corporate world. Large companies are projected to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in digital transformation efforts over the next five years.

programmingThese efforts will require sophisticated knowledge and capabilities. As a result, the demand for quality talent is soon expected to outstrip supply by a significant margin.

So, what can help give businesses an edge in the anticipated competition for scarce digital talent? According to a recent article from McKinsey, the first step is for companies to determine exactly what their needs are when it comes to digital capabilities.

While precise needs will vary depending on market and geography, many needs are common to all successful digital businesses. These include IT systems that can handle huge volumes of data, that have the flexibility to interact with external platforms and technologies, and that are focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences.

In order to best support these and other core needs, McKinsey analysts suggest that companies prioritize the following roles when scouting for digital talent:

“Experience Designers” and Engineers

The customer experience is the main driver of most digital business activity today. This means that companies need to invest in the right tech talent to deliver the best possible experience.

The position of experience designer encompasses a number of different functions, including leveraging customer research to produce actionable insights and running real-time test-and-learn programs. However, broadly speaking, their main role is to serve as customer advocates, drawing on ethnographic research and utilizing their collaborative skills to solve problems with customer experience and design and improve the customer journey.

Experience designers are supported in this mission by front-end and mobile engineers, who use their expertise in building high-performing, scalable, and sleek user interfaces to rapidly translate designs and digital experiences into effective working software.

Scrum Masters and Agility Coaches

To maximize the flexibility and responsiveness that today’s customers demand, more and more companies are using agile development strategies. When these strategies are employed, software development takes place over a number of rapid, iterative cycles.

coachingThis approach is quite different from previously-employed conventional methods such as traditional sequential development. As a result, it’s critical for companies to have proper support in the form of scrum masters and agility coaches.

Scrum masters are responsible for managing teams during the development process. This requires both strong leadership and enabling skills as well as a high level of technological expertise.

Agility coaches are focused on the bigger picture, helping to create and roll out business-wide plans for agile processes. They also track key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics across the broader organization.

Product Owners

Product owners are in charge of particular digital products within a company. As such, they have very high-level responsibilities. These responsibilities include defining the product’s vision, making high-value business decisions, and tracking product progress through an intense focus on KPIs.

Like CEOs, product owners work closely and regularly with a wide variety of individuals in other roles, including engineers, developers, experience designers, and other key business stakeholders. As a result, a strong sense of vision and the ability to inspire people towards that vision are important qualities for the role.

Full-Stack Architects

engineerCompanies navigating today’s complex and rapidly-evolving technological landscape need the services of passionate learners who are dedicated to keeping up with changing technologies and techniques. Enter the full-stack architect.

These individuals are hands-on developers who are familiar with all technology components and “stacks” of a large-scale software system. These include everything from web and mobile user interfaces to back-end databases.

Typically, these individuals have at least eight to 10 years of software engineering experience. Full-stack engineers have the knowledge and expertise to link architectural vision with business vision, and to drive business value as well as technical excellence.

Next-Generation Machine Learning Engineers

Companies are increasingly making use of machine learning to collect and rationalize huge volumes of customer data. As a result, a new kind of software engineer has evolved. This individual is a next-generation breed with expertise in data use, scalable computing environments, algorithm refinement and application, and distributed computing techniques.

These individuals are highly focused on technical details and solutions. However, the most effective machine learning engineers also understand broader business objectives. They serve as “thought partners” for companies on the journey from problem to insight to continuously evolving solutions.

DevOps Engineers

Cloud computing and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models have completely changed how infrastructure resources are managed. DevOps engineers function at the intersection of development and operations.

These are the workers who enable companies to build and take advantage of new technological advancements. Generally, these individuals are software engineers who want to bring a high lever of craftsmanship to IT infrastructure and operations.

DevOps engineers provide a vital link between technology and business goals. They create the tools and automations that allow development teams to access critical infrastructure resources on-demand and independently with just a click of a button.