Cybersecurity – a digital growth enabler

By Paul Jolliffe, Digital Security Practice Leader at T-Systems South Africa

Organisations are in the midst of transforming their business models where everything that can be digitised, is being digitised. This raises competitive stakes, as more organisations seek to digitally transform and disrupt their industries to stay ahead of the curve. Nonetheless, with this shift from analogue to digital environments comes a new set of online security risks which threaten both businesses and their customers. Organisations are compelled to reassess their approach to cybersecurity and look at it as a growth enabler rather than just a risk reduction tool.

Enabling business to digitally transform

Traditionally, IT security has been viewed by organisations as a grudge purchase; something that is required to reduce risk and aid compliance. Yet Cybersecurity is fast being recognised as more than just a cost factor – it is becoming a vital part of the digital strategy. According to a recent survey conducted by Cisco, 69 percent of surveyed executives indicated that their organisations are reluctant to innovate in areas such as digital services because of the perceived cybersecurity risks. When cybersecurity forms part of a digital strategy and innovations are built on the foundation of security, organisations can better focus on digitisation. In fact, cybersecurity becomes a key driver of their competitive advantage.

The foundation for growth

The key enablers for digitisation involve cloud, big data, mobility and collaboration. Security needs to be embedded in the ecosystem, and needs to be sufficiently agile to adapt to the speeds and volume of data required by transactions, while being able to handle the complexity of threats in a digital world. Security and governance is more complicated now, as more threat surfaces add to the risk. With so much data sitting off-site in various cloud environments, traditional borders are blurred.

Be that as it may, the shift to cloud is a necessary part of digitising, and organisations cannot make this shift without cybersecurity. Organisations must protect their data and meet various compliancy regulations, without inhibiting users who are required to securely interact with data.

Organisations should also demonstrate to their customers that they are serious about cybersecurity. Through prioritising cybersecurity as part of their innovation efforts, it can be used as a competitive advantage. Thus, it becomes a tool for growth, enabling the shift to digital platforms while displaying the organisation’s dedication to both innovation and security.

Further complicating security in a digitised environment is the fact that organisations are pressed to demonstrate value with every IT purchase. Traditionally, a Return on Investment (ROI) must be achieved to justify the investment. While there are ways to prove ROI on cybersecurity, it is incredibly complex unless a breach occurs and the loss prevention can be shown in figures. The value can be better found in the overall market share growth that a secure digital platform enables. The reputation of the business also improves, when it is positioned as an innovator and market leader. Security is not removed from this growth, but forms a key component of the foundation.

Shifting the mindset

The fact remains that staying competitive requires innovation and, in a digital world, this requires cybersecurity. Organisations need a strong, agile cybersecurity foundation to accelerate digital onboarding and innovation. This can be achieved when security moves away from being a cost centre and evolves as a tool to support innovation and growth. To achieve this mindset, organisations should do the following:

1.  Take ownership of this process, prioritising cybersecurity as the foundation for digitalisation.

2.  To accelerate their transformation strategy, organisations need to understand the business-critical risks and threats and plan accordingly.

3.  Identify vulnerabilities in existing digital technologies and business processes, and re-engineer them with cybersecurity as the foundation.

4.  Create awareness and improve knowledge of cybersecurity risks and how to avoid them across the entire organisation.

The shift to digital is only in its infancy nevertheless.  As we move ever closer to the digital core, organisations who fail to consider cybersecurity as a key value proposition and growth enabler are likely to fall behind those secure digitisers who do.

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