Data Protection as a Critical Component of Digital Transformation

Data Protection as a Critical Component
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New technologies, shifting consumer expectations, and increased global competition are causing radical changes to business operations today. Not to mention global economic and geopolitical events, as well as the pandemic, of course.

Over the past few years, businesses have transformed their operations in many ways, including shifting to cloud-based systems, leveraging data analytics, implementing automation, enhancing customer experiences with digital interfaces, and more.

Here are some of the major drivers of digital transformation in this age:

  • Competitiveness: It looks like, every day, several new startups are launched, making an already competitive business landscape even more fierce. Thus, adaptability is the watchword. After all, Microsoft Word was the world’s default word processor software until a few years ago when Google staged an upset with its cloud-first Google Docs.
  • Operational Efficiency: With technologies such as AI, machine learning, and data analytics, there is almost no reason for a business to be inefficient. It’s basically a race to eliminate every bit of inefficiency across organizational processes.
  • Enhancing Customer Experiences: With the proliferation of various forms of devices, including IoT, customers now expect seamless omni-channel experiences and highly personalized engagement. And businesses must transform their strategies to catch up.

The Data Protection Challenge of Digital Transformation

The digital transformation is really a data transformation since its most prominent feature is exponentially growing volumes of data across new cloud environments and even in legacy on-premises systems.

In addition to volume and velocity, companies also have to grapple with the spread of data, with employees’ increased love for remote work as well as BYOD policies not helping matters.

Ensuring adequate security and privacy protections for big data is a major concern because over the past few years, many organizations have become more prone to security breaches, leaks, and non-compliance issues.

Here are some specific factors that exacerbate the challenge:

  • Lack of visibility: IT security leaders are finding it difficult to maintain a unified oversight of data because it is spread across different platforms. Shadow IT is a serious challenge that has only grown in the past few years.
  • Multi-cloud complexity: Public and private cloud environments both have their pros and cons. So, many organizations have found themselves defaulting to hybrid environments, combining different providers. This often increases friction not just in operations but also in maintaining data security.
  • Immature cloud security posture: Many businesses were forced to accelerate their transformation, particularly during the pandemic. This has left so many with ill-thought strategies for mitigating compromise in their data security infrastructure.
  • Siloed security tools: Different security products for networks, endpoints, and cloud lack integration and fail to provide a coordinated response. This introduces blind spots.
  • Skills shortage: Experts have been decrying the huge shortage of cybersecurity professionals with skills to address risks in modern digital landscapes. More so, the challenge of securing data is a unique and specialized one.
  • Inability to enforce data policies: As data moves beyond traditional boundaries, it becomes difficult to ensure consistent enforcement of organizational privacy and compliance policies.
  • Third-party risks: Outsourcing to partners and service providers multiplies the attack surface and challenges of managing data access within third-party ecosystems.

Data Protection Strategy in the Era of Digital Transformation

In view of the challenges discussed above, robust data security and governance need to be central pillars of any digital transformation initiative. The most successful companies are taking a proactive approach to modernizing their cyber defenses, minimizing vulnerabilities, and closing gaps that might lead to data breaches. In this section, we discuss some of the elements of a solid data protection strategy.

  1. Set your data management objectives

Some leaders might make the mistake of treating data security like it’s a plug-and-play solution; that’s a shortsighted approach. In reality, data protection is a critical business component and must be treated like all other aspects of operations. That means establishing detailed plans and goals for your data security program and providing actionable ways to measure progress in your journey towards enhanced protection.

  1. Tailor your strategy to your unique needs

There are just too many factors to consider when creating a data protection strategy, and copying off another company just won’t work. Your industry, data volume, data types, risk tolerance, etc. are a few of the factors that typically come into consideration. So, only establish a data protection strategy after extensive consultations and discussions about what your own organization needs to stay on top of the game.

  1. Use data security-oriented technologies

Foundational cybersecurity tools help to protect data, but they are not adequate. Technologies like data loss prevention (DLP), security information and event management (SIEM), cloud access security broker (CASB), etc. are more efficient to cater to your specific data protection needs. This is something to pay attention to.

  1. Conduct regular audits and stress tests

Data protection, like every other aspect of cybersecurity, is a continuous activity. And that means regularly testing your defenses to be sure that they can hold off serious attacks. Periodic audits and tests will help you determine that your controls are working as intended and identify gaps for potential enhancements.

  1. Keep an eye on third parties

Third-party partners will have access to some of your data – sometimes sensitive – to do their business. So, it should not be negotiable to vet the providers, contractors, and other external parties that will be working with you. Before signing an agreement, ensure that there is a clear definition of expected security standards to protect your business from undue liability.

Conclusion

The journey towards digital transformation in global business has been quite the ride, but it is now time for leaders to take a retreat and re-examine their strategies, especially pertaining to data protection. Without adequate protection for data, digital transformation falls apart.

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