By David Samuelson, Chief Executive Officer, ISACA
The desire to break down workplace silos and foster more cross-functional collaboration is one of the most frequently discussed business goals but, in practice, often falls into the “easier said than done” category.
While siloed work in the past has often kept companies from realising their full potential, organisations generally were able to muddle through and stay relatively on course. That is no longer the case. The pace of business in today’s digital economy and the complexity of the cyberthreat and regulatory landscapes mean that sustained, cross-functional collaboration has become essential to deliver what is now table stakes to attract and retain customers: digital trust.
Digital trust is “the confidence in the integrity of relations, interactions and transactions among providers and consumers within an associated digital ecosystem.” This is a central imperative in today’s digital economy since, without trusting an organisation’s products, services, or commerce platforms, customers will take their business elsewhere.
Building digital trust starts with the C-Suite
Driving toward digital trust is truly a company-wide effort – security, privacy, risk, assurance, governance, IT, legal, quality, and even HR and marketing teams all have roles to play. However, enterprise leaders should set the tone by emphasising digital trust as an enterprise-wide priority. According to ISACA’s State of Digital Trust survey, business and IT leaders reported lack of alignment of digital trust and enterprise goals and lack of leadership buy-in are the biggest obstacles in the way of achieving digital trust. It’s up to C-Suite leaders to remove these obstacles and better position their businesses to earn their customers’ trust.
Leadership buy-in can take many forms, but one of the more powerful ways to reinforce the importance of digital trust is to make participation in cross-functional working groups part of the expectation for key team members who drive digital trust. For instance, HR leaders should embed digital trust teamwork and collaboration in job descriptions and track progress in performance reviews. These formal steps help to make it clear that the security team connecting with risk management, ongoing dialogue between privacy and legal, etc., become part of the organisation’s weekly rhythm rather than one-off conversations left to chance. Another meaningful step is to make sure someone on the leadership team is accountable for digital trust progress and ensure that digital trust sits firmly on the board agenda. Only 12% of State of Digital Trust respondents say their organisation currently has a role dedicated to digital trust. These figures won’t stay low for long as 82% of leaders expect digital trust to become even more important at their organisation in the next five years. So, digital trust roles within the C-Suite are bound to become more commonplace if businesses are going to deliver their newly established priorities.
How to embed digital trust across every corner of the business
When it comes to aligning digital trust and enterprise goals, a digital trust by design approach goes a long way. Businesses should develop their enterprise goals with digital trust at the centre of each of them. Before jumping to sales expectations for a certain product in the marketplace, businesses must first ensure that the product protects privacy, ensures security and is of high quality, before layering on applicable revenue and market share aspirations. For already established enterprise goals, organisations should re-evaluate them through the lens of digital trust – if they still measure up, great. If they don’t, goals should be reconfigured to align with establishing digital trust.
Finally, leaders should ensure measurement is in place. Like virtually all meaningful aspects of the modern business landscape, digital trust should be measured and assessed on an ongoing basis. However, less than a quarter (23%) of business and IT leaders say their organisation currently measures the maturity of their digital trust practices. Whether they utilise a framework or identify specific digital trust KPIs that are regularly tracked, enterprise leaders should measure digital trust to identify areas of improvement and use it as a competitive advantage.
Digital trust is achievable for all organisations, large or small, but it won’t happen by accident or overnight – it must be at the center of the organisation’s priorities – with leadership ensuring it is part of people’s job descriptions, integrated into enterprise goals and measured on an ongoing basis. When digital trust is pursued in collaborative, cross-functional fashion, workplace siloes that too often exist melt away. By making digital trust a rallying cry throughout their organisation, enterprise leaders can simultaneously elevate their company’s standing with customers and set in motion the collaborative spirit that leads to innovation and improved performance.