The digital revolution has very much arrived: are you prepared?

The digital revolution has very much arrived: are you prepared?

Over recent years organisations across various sectors have been moving across to a more ‘digital’ way of operating. From the very basics of having a digital presence on the web, through to a solely digital operating model from marketing to customer records.

Various aspects of our lives today are run through a more digital format with more heading that way. Even for businesses, the Government is consulting on ‘Making Tax Digital’, so even your tax and account records will need to be digital in the future.

With lockdown placing restrictions on ‘physical’ ways of working, organisations that can, have been engaging with a more digital way of working. While this has posed some challenges, it has also presented some opportunities.

I’ve worked with technology, people and data for almost 15 years now across various sectors. Technology (“digital”) is more than just a piece of equipment, it’s a way of working. A way of getting a task done. A behaviour. And for some, a skill.

Working digitally can bring you things like;

  • Efficiencies in processes
  • Better data and information
  • Reduced cost
  • A diverse and resilient workforce and communication channels

All of which are great things, but they don’t just happen overnight. Like most things in life, someone has to do something for something else to occur. So, have you considered what that something might be? Or even what it needs to be in order to protect your organisation, your priorities and your data?

There are a number of things that, if left unchecked, could land you in trouble. Below are some examples of the more ‘frequent’ we are seeing amongst organisations that have just ‘gone digital’ without any real thought behind it.

  1. Fear of use

Many of us don’t really receive a ‘universal’ level of software training. Most tend to learn on the job and through experience. If they are lucky enough to get a good trainer or colleague then they learn some skills, certainly enough to do their job with the software they are given.

But what about this new thing, Teams? Are staff trained on that? Do they know how to use it effectively so that they don’t lose things or share things that they shouldn’t have done? Teams, and other such software, has some great potential for collaboration and digital working, but if staff do not understand it, they will either fear it or use it inappropriately and cause you issues as a result.

If you are to take advantage of the recent digital revolution, maybe now is the time to upskill staff on how to work digitally? What is data, information and how things like Office work. Skills for staff is always a good idea and if it means you now have a flexible, clued up, digital workforce, then what else is stopping you from making the most of the ‘digital age’?

  1. Inappropriate use

Digital technology means more ‘digital data’ than ever before. Some of which will give you fascinating and useful insights into your organisation, youicor products, your customers and, your staff. That data gives you power to improve what you do, find gaps for improvement or new services, and support your customers and staff.

With great power, comes great responsibility. Especially where data on your customers and staff is concerned. Just because you technically can do something with now, doesn’t mean that you should. And there are a number of legal standards in place to ensure the appropriate use of such personal data.

It is often said that Data Protection is a business blocker, and in my experience, I tend to find the opposite. The main areas where Data Protection would say ‘no’, are often the same places where other areas of law also say no. Monitoring every move of a member of staff, for example. There are technologies that can do that, and that data may well exist within your organisation. But to use that data against the member of staff, when they have no idea it is going on and there are no standards to ensure it is authentic data, means that for all sorts of reasons not just Data Protection, it has ‘bad idea’ written all over it.

So, if you want to do something with data relating to people, take a look and see if you can before you do. It might well be that you can do it, but if that cake is already in the oven and you didn’t check the occasion, you might find that cake has to be left out in the rain…

  1. Poor quality stuff

I was once at an Executive Committee meeting for a client, and I sat in on the last part of the previous agenda item. I was amazed at how 3 different people all claimed to have the precise finger for total gross income for the month (all of which was wildly different) and were arguing over who was right.

It was a golden example of how data doesn’t lie, but it tells you what the person managing the data wants it to tell you. As you go digital you will be collecting in more digital data than ever before as by-product of digital technology. What do you want that data to be? What purpose will it serve? Do you want to rely on it to fuel your strategies and decisions? If so, can you afford to just take whatever is generated and not look to secure and authenticate it in any way?

Let’s take pants as an example. In the UK pants are underwear. In the US they are trousers. If I collate the total number of ‘pants’ sales across the UK and US will I get an accurate number, or will I get a misleading blend? To a person from the UK reading that report, underwear sales are through the roof! I need to look at this and see if we can maximise this some more. Maybe pull resources from one area to another to support that growth?

And yet, if a person from the US reads that report, they see a massive spike in pants (trouser) sales and may well do the same actions as the UK person.

Both are right, and yet both are wrong. Both will take decisions based on poor quality data. Right data for the right question. You can’t afford not to protect and take care of your data.

  1. Insecure data

For many of you, your customer database (CRM) is your biggest asset. It has all your customers in there, their spending record, concerns, preferences, contact details, all sorts. If you were to lose that, in any way shape or form, could you honestly continue to trade and operate as you did before? Or would you suffer an unnecessary blow to your growth and operation?

Security of data is more than just throwing everything under lock and key. Just like using data, protecting it is also a behaviour and skill. It’s about risk vs reward. About knowing when it is appropriate to expose something and what not so.

As your workforce goes more and more digital, the threats to your network and your data will change and evolve too. Some will get better; some will get worse. Some will be ‘the unknowns’ (see below) and some will be the things you see various organisations talking about, the Essex Chambers being just one.

What is your current level of security? Do you know where all your precious data is? Both digitally and physically? After all, every single system you use is being delivered by a physical bit of kit somewhere. So, while you may be ‘online’ and accessing your systems through ‘the cloud’, that cloud is physically located on this earth somewhere. On your premises, not so much of a concern. Sat in a cheap server room in Asia, a little more of a concern as you have no idea how it is being cared for.

Find out what you have and where it is. You can then see what security would need to look like for you, your setup and your pressures.

  1. The great unknown

I mentioned above the ‘unknowns’ because, like most areas of risk, we know what we know, and we try to plan for what we don’t know. Where digital technology is concerned, if you don’t know what is being used, collected or stored, then how do you know X or Y or Z won’t affect you?

You may think staff are using your systems perfectly fine, but what if they are not? What if, as many organisations are reporting more and more of, staff have bought or obtained a free version of a piece of software to help them work? It is commonly referred to as ‘shadow IT’. Systems and tech that your IT functions knows nothing about and yet is being used to store your sensitive data on. WhatsApp, Trello, Zoom, to name just some of the more ‘famous’ ones.

Again, security doesn’t necessarily ban the use of such systems, but it does want to know about them. And so, do you. You are the guardian of your business; you want to protect it from unnecessary threats and the fact is unknown random systems you have no control over present a very real threat to the safety of your organisation.

The digital revolution is a brilliant opportunity to progress into the 21st century and beyond. Whether you do it partially (because you still have to be ‘physical’ for x or y reason) or you go totally digital and ‘paper-free’. Just make sure you do it for you. Your digital revolution is for your benefit, the benefit of your workforce and customers, and is done so that it improves your security and resilience, not threatens it.

If you want to learn more about this, or any other aspect of handling data why not check out our website at www.lighthouseig.com. You can see what we are up to, upcoming practical skills courses with the Essex Chambers of Commerce, free resources and ways in which we can help your growth!

Scott Sammons

Information & Data Specialist

Lighthouse IG Ltd

scott@ligthouseig.com