Employees are at their best when they are encouraged to take calculated risks, rather than becoming complacent with what they know and what has become comfortable. The same holds true for enterprises.
Some of the best risks enterprises can take in our technology-driven business landscape involve deploying transformative technologies that allow them to connect with customers in new and innovative ways. Yet, in many cases, organizations are failing to capitalize on the widening array of opportunities.
ISACA’s new Digital Transformation Barometer research shows that only 31% of organizations frequently evaluate opportunities arising from emerging technology. Given the swift pace with which technology is introduced and refined, this shows that most enterprises are undercutting their ability to seize marketplace opportunities and better serve their customers.
Boards of directors and the C-suite should be challenging their operational teams to research, pilot and ultimately become experts in emerging technologies capable of transforming their enterprises. Big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things devices and blockchain are just a few examples of technologies capable of delivering transformational change. To lead effectively, senior leaders have to be able to articulate the future vision for their companies in the context of the technologies that will get them there.
There isn’t a board chair or CEO on the planet who would not be thrilled to open new revenue streams or reach new customers – some of the top motivators for pursuing digital transformation. So, what is holding so many organizations back? A shortage of digitally fluent leaders is one impediment. Only a little more than half of survey respondents expressed confidence that their organizations’ leaders have a solid understanding of technology and its related benefits and risks. ISACA’s research shows that those organizations lacking digitally fluent leadership are less likely to evaluate technology opportunities.
Even those organizations that perform their due diligence in vetting new technologies often develop reservations once more is learned about the associated risks. A whopping 96% of survey respondents believe there is high or medium risk in deploying IoT devices, and more than 9 in 10 respondents also categorized public cloud and AI/machine learning/cognitive technology as posing medium to high risk.
The reality is every new technology introduced expands the attack surfaces and presents new risks. Organizations must move beyond that inherent discomfort and devote the necessary resources to mitigate risk to acceptable levels. Enterprises with effective information and technology governance programs can deliver better customer experiences, innovate more, and improve their business performance and profitability. Investing in well-trained, highly skilled professionals in areas such as audit, risk, governance and cyber security can provide enterprises the confidence they need to effectively and securely leverage their technology. Organizations should also resist the urge to take shortcuts in pilot testing or research and development when evaluating new technologies.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about digital transformation. Not every turn of the wheel on an enterprise’s journey can be a smashing success, and organizational leaders must give their team members the freedom to take a well-reasoned risk that may – or may not – yield the anticipated results. Those failures can provide unparalleled learning opportunities.
Organizations that remain committed to digital transformation can reap great rewards. From telecommunications giant Sprint tapping into big data, to a town in North Carolina, USA, shedding the yoke of legacy applications, there is no shortage of examples of enterprise large and small successfully harnessing digital transformation.
As the Latin proverb goes, fortune favors the bold. Enterprise leaders should embrace that mindset and make digital transformation a centerpiece of their organizations’ roadmaps toward a prosperous future.
Matt Loeb, CGEIT, CAE, FASAE, Chief Executive Officer, ISACA
[ISACA Now Blog]