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How technology is driving trust

August 19, 2021

Avinash Prasad   

Head of Managed Security Services, Tata Communications

Organisations need to learn how to gain trust across their business value chain to succeed in the future. In the first of a three-part series, Avinash Prasad, Head of Managed Security Services, Tata Communications, explores what it means to build trust digitally, the benefits it can provide, and the consequences of losing it. 

It’s often said that human beings are ‘social creatures’ – we’re wired to form connections with and learn to trust other people. Over the ages while our communities have grown and transformed, but the ways we develop trust as individuals has largely remained the same.

Trust is the anchor in all relationships.

Traditionally, when businesses started trying to garner the trust of customers, they too relied on the power of interpersonal relationships.

Whether it’s the sale assistant in a retail store, or a cash teller in a local bank, these businesses relied on their employees to give their brands a face and what their customers can relate to – and most importantly – place their trust in.

However, with enterprises adopting digital operating models, work-from-home and the growing cloud and mobiles driven engagements, the dynamics of trust has changed.

“With limited opportunity to physically interface with employees, partners, and prospective customers, many firms are impelled to foster trust digitally.”

So, as we stride towards a world where life is lived increasingly online, in this piece, we’ll look at what it means to build trust digitally, the benefits it can provide, the consequences of losing it. We’ll also explore what technologies are driving trust as it overtakes many aspects of corporate relationships.

The hierarchy of trust for a digital world

It’s important to remember that trust should be a foundational aspect of all our interactions in the digital world. Trust is intertwined with issues surrounding consumer data, intellectual property protection, and online transactions, regulatory compliance to name a few.

We’ve now emerged into a world where interpersonal interactions are no longer a fixture of the business-customer relationship. But this doesn’t mean the need for trust has lessened – in fact, it’s become even more critical than ever before as customers now interact with enterprises across multiple different digital channels and platforms, sharing critical personal information.

This explains why digital trust programs rank as the number three priority of global business leaders in 2021, according to the IDC’s 2020 COVID-19 Impact Survey, Wave 11.

“For a business to successfully nurture digital trust with the public, the efficacy of their online capabilities must be beyond reproach.”

For the embodiment of trust within digital transaction the security assurances they offer around customer personal data protection, and the integrity of their transactions, should be robust and proven.

They must be willing to be transparent as possible with their customers as much as the law and competition will permit. Further, critical elements of the approach needs to include more engaging customer communications and driving awareness on how to spot spurious digital interactions.

Taken together, achieving this requires businesses to redefine their entire approach to fostering trust for the digital age. In recent years, the IDC has proposed a framework for how a trust-enabled ecosystem can be achieved.

It starts from the foundational rung of risk, which is a function of visibility and the likelihood of a potential outcome, positive or negative, could impact confidentiality, integrity, availability, productivity, or revenue.

The next step up is the compulsory band, encapsulating all the aspects of security, and compliances mandated by the law, such as ongoing risk assessments and adherence with the various regulatory guidelines and policies.

The final step up before a business can actualise digital trust is the strategic element, which is where businesses get to differentiate themselves from the pack. This is because there are numerous factors outside of simply reducing risk and cost which leaders must consider, such as maximising ROI of capital and resources.

When a business also chooses to place real priority on a more strategic attributes such as privacy, ethics, and social responsibility, they start building a reservoir of future trust that can be tapped later to create positive outcomes.

So, digital trust needs to be the valuable resource it is and be a core priority for every business. And while there’s no single action a business can take that will grant them their customers’ and employees trust instantly, the ongoing process of fostering it in a digital world is driven by technology.

Cyber security – the digital trust enabler

While the last year may have highlighted the importance of trust in a stark and significant way, the costs of either failing to foster digital trust or worse, betraying that trust, comes with many direct and indirect costs. These include short term impacts, accounting costs and other economic losses.

However, of all the ways digital trust can be eroded, few things are as damaging as a data breach that leaves the personal data of customers exposed. Other than the devastating damage to brand reputation, they can also result in huge fines.

That’s why cybersecurity must be inextricably linked to any initiative that hopes to build digital trust.  One that is built on a strong foundation of risk management, security, and compliance, and on top of it sits the c-suite skills to ensure it has become corporate culture backed by integrity and ethics. Enterprises need to adopt a pragmatic approach on implementing cybersecurity practices to enable and sustain digital trust.  Like – Building a trust zone, – Intelligent analytics driven SecOps, and – Establishing a managed security framework for controls mapped across user, entity, access, device, and threat.

“Trust needs to be built and perpetually sustained. Hence, a ‘set it and forget it’ model does not apply. It requires continuous assessments and upliftment, and cybersecurity teams need to partner effectively with other functions to deliver on this core business value.”

And going forward, businesses will have to learn how to gain trust across the business value chain, sourcing greater visibility across their digital and security architectures, if they want to succeed in the future.

Not just because of the lingering effects of the pandemic, but because harnessing digital trust will be the only way to truly thrive in a digital world.

To learn more about our recent findings into the shifting foundations of business in the post-COVID-19 world, read our report, Digital Trust, The New Business Foundation.