What do CISOs need to think about in 2021?

26 Feb 2021

Steve Coakley. Image: Iain White/Fennell Photography

BT Ireland’s Steve Coakley spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about some of the trends CIOs and CISOs need to watch out for following a year of global disruption.

Steve Coakley, head of network propositions at BT Ireland, has more than 20 years’ experience in the global telecommunications industry across product marketing, management, development and network design.

He holds an MSc in optoelectronics and optical information processing and a BSc in applied science. Last month, he was awarded a professional diploma in innovation, creativity and leadership by University College Dublin.

He spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about some of the key trends he sees coming down the line following a year of global disruption.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has pretty much upended nearly every aspect of life’

What are some of the key trends you’re seeing in digital transformation following the disruption that came in 2020?

At the start of the pandemic, BT saw a surge in demand for remote working solutions. There was a massive demand for secure virtual private networks as global workforces moved out of the office and into the home. We’re talking about some companies moving multiple thousands of employees onto remote working platforms.

We saw a spike in demand for collaboration platforms, for cloud contact centre solutions – in fact, a race for the cloud. The business world appeared separated into those who were already in the cloud and those who weren’t.

A June 2020 McKinsey survey showed that 90pc of those surveyed believe the crisis will fundamentally change their business in the next five years.

Well, we have already seen that change evident with global supply chains disrupted and partnerships have been tested like never before. I believe that the partnerships that have delivered during this pandemic will only amplify mutual benefit as we emerge.

For example, in supply chain there will be better use of data for just-in-time re-allocation of resources to better serve customers. Also notable has been the consideration of AR technologies for use cases including remote audit and customer demonstrations.

What kind of lessons do you think companies and leaders learned from having to optimise quickly in 2020?

I like the idea that it takes a person a certain number of days for a new behaviour to become automatic. A 2009 study in the European Journal of Psychology concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.

So, now here we are – almost a year since we dispersed our workforces home – having ‘automated’ home working, effectively stopped using cash for retail, rapidly increased our online shopping, are entertained online more than ever before, are benefitting from remote medical consultations and online prescription services.

For communities and social groups, we saw the likes of Zoom jump from 10m users in December 2019 to 200m in April 2020.

So, our personal experiences of handling change to how we live has been echoed in the business sphere. We will have more automation, new ways to engage for B2B services and better outcomes through the use of collaboration solutions.

What are the biggest challenges companies are facing when it comes to digital transformation?

The Covid-19 pandemic has pretty much upended nearly every aspect of life, from the personal – how people live and work – to the professional – how companies interact with their customers, how customers choose and purchase products and services, how supply chains deliver them.

With many executives expecting to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years, it’s safe to say that the pandemic has forced us all to think differently.

This means that CIOs will now need to get a handle on:

  1. Expectations of faster execution in your organisation – compression of decision times and delivery times
  2. A shift in attitude to investment risk – pay as you go versus upfront commitments, try before you buy etc
  3. Greater appetite for co-innovation with customers and partners
  4. Greater comfort with platform business models – the ability to manage an ecosystem of partners to accelerate development and roll-out of new solutions
In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data right now?

What’s clear is that keeping the organisation secure is now at the top of the business agenda – only Covid-19 is a bigger concern. In a rapidly changing business environment, the role of the CISO has hugely expanded in its scope and responsibilities. CISOs, in fact, have never been more integral.

A recent BT survey of 7,000 business leaders, employees and consumers resulted in five key findings of interest to those adopting digital transformation:

  1. Basic cybersecurity hygiene needs to be much better – only a third of employees are 100pc aware of how to keep organisational data secure
  2. Security wins customers – 64pc of consumers recommend firms that make big efforts to keep data secure
  3. Consumers and employees are ready to embrace more security measures to stay safe online – two-thirds of consumers now say security is more important than convenience
  4. No matter how good the technology, it can never replace the human firewall – nearly half of employees say they personally have had a security breach and not declared it
  5. Expectations of CISOs have never been greater, but leaders need to be visible – and right now, fewer than half of employees can put a name to their company’s CISO

So, with security becoming an even more critical function to the business, it is now more important than ever that an organisation’s service provider delivers the right advice and portfolio to enable businesses to be successful.

More than any other technology, cybersecurity requires customers to invest continually in order to maintain their defences.

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