Trust And Security As A Post-Digital Asset

Stephane Martin

In Accenture’s Technology Vision for SAP Solutions 2019, we looked at how new technologies, new customer relationships, and new employee experiences will define the coming post-digital age.

But there’s another theme that’s just as relevant: trust and security. In fact, this might just be the most important post-digital theme of all. That’s because trust (and the security that enables it) underpins just about everything a business aspires to do in the post-digital age.

Without the trust of your customers, you can’t build the deeper and more valuable relationships you need. Without the trust of your partners, you can’t develop the new ecosystem-based products, services, and experiences that will differentiate your brand. And without the trust of your employees, you can’t attract, inspire, and keep the best talent.

In other words, trust is now an asset for a business. It’s the foundation of the post-digital enterprise. But it’s not permanent: once you’ve earned it, you need to continuously nurture it.

Build and demonstrate the security, and the trust will come

The key to winning and maintaining that trust is, first and foremost, to have systems that are rigorously secure. The trouble is, in the post-digital era, security is far more complex than it once was.

Modern businesses no longer exist within themselves – or at least successful post-digital businesses don’t. Instead, they make numerous connections from their enterprise systems out into their ecosystems of partners, suppliers, and customers. They need to do that to deliver the end-to-end services and experiences their customers want. But it exponentially increases the exposure to risk.

That changes the security mindset needed. Traditional security approaches have always emphasized building strong security around the entire enterprise. But once you’ve opened up the doors to the outside world, which you absolutely need to do in the post-digital age, the shortcomings of the traditional “four walls” approach are obvious.

Security in the post-digital world is about thinking bigger, but also smaller. First, it’s no longer enough to put a security moat around your entire enterprise and think the job is done. You need to think more broadly about how you and your partners help secure and protect the entire ecosystem.

At the same time, you need to think about security in a smaller, more modular way – by safeguarding individual applications and systems as well as the whole enterprise. When you have external connections in and out of specific applications, you need to be thinking how to protect those applications on an individual level – securing the code and the data, managing vulnerability and who has access, when, and how.

Security is too important to be an afterthought

Another challenge with trust and security is the corporate mindset. Nearly every business leader I speak to recognizes that trust is a key asset for their business. But there are still too many companies that can’t or don’t act on this insight. They end up treating security almost as an afterthought – something to be tacked on to a new system once it’s been implemented.

That approach just doesn’t work anymore. Trust is too important to the viability of the business to be ignored upfront. Security considerations need to be built into any implementation from day one – and especially as part of a digital (or post-digital) transformation journey.

This is especially true when you’re talking about a software landscape that is managing all the core enterprise data and processes. You now need to integrate security throughout, managing data security, but also system vulnerability – including cloud – and flow security. Most of the tools are already there in the SAP software landscape. Plus we at Accenture have built assets on top to help further.

The risks of security failure are well known. Data breaches can now come with hefty fines, but the impact on reputation and trust are probably more harmful in the long run.

Once you lose trust in any relationship – person to person, brand to consumer, employer to employee – that relationship breaks down. And there’s no way back without expending huge amounts of time and effort to rebuild trust. In the post-digital world, where these relationships are so much more important and need to work in real time, that’s a toxic position for any company to find itself in.

But there’s a positive side here, too. If you can build and deepen trust across the ecosystem, new things become possible. Customers are more willing to share data. New partnerships with external companies create opportunities for intelligent supply chains, blockchain-based data-sharing, and open innovation. Employees are inspired and empowered to rethink how they work, what they do, and how they create value for the business.

Preparing for the post-digital future

The key point is to recognize the central importance of trust as you start a transformation. Underpinned by that trust, there’s much to look forward to for enterprises in the post-digital world. Yes, some are only just now getting started on their digital journeys. But it’s never too soon to be thinking about what’s next.

This article originally appeared on the Accenture Technology Insights blog and is republished by permission. Accenture is an SAP global partner.

Stephane Martin

About Stephane Martin

Stéphane Martin is a managing director at Accenture and SAP technology domain global lead. He has more than 15 years of experience in SAP technology as a technical architect working on cross-industry, big transformation programs, including SI/IT department reorganization.