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Businesses now face an unprecedented challenge earning and maintaining customer interest and loyalty. Those looking to separate themselves from their competitors will embrace trust and security as a competitive advantage and build their business models to reflect this paradigm change. The way we conduct business and interact with each other as a society has shifted, and industry must adjust to survive.
To be sure, the pandemic super-charged several trends that were under way—mobile and cloud computing, artificial intelligence, instant payments, green tech, and other platforms had already achieved some critical mass before March 2020.
These forces, now magnified, have generated a new economic model. The acceleration has been enormous: for instance, quarterly e-commerce retail sales grew by 38%, or $55.1 billion on a comparable basis between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 (U.S. Census). While the rate of acceleration may level off due to a relaxation of pandemic restrictions, a reversal of the digital economy’s growth in share seems unlikely.
Accelerated change brings unique risks. Unemployment insurance fraud has skyrocketed. Personal safety is challenged by a crime wave. New health risks have emerged, directly from COVID-19 and indirectly from isolation and lack of care. Ever more, nation-states are positioning themselves for global economic, political, and military primacy within cyberspace, while cybercriminals and state-sanctioned threat actors concurrently seek profit through the exploitation of information security vulnerabilities across multinational corporations.
Such rapid change is both exciting and anxiety-inducing for business leaders seeking market share growth. These leaders need to learn about revised customer preferences, explore product innovation, develop new channels, and adapt to remote workplace models before they can devise and execute strategies to capture share. Nothing short of success in this regard is acceptable to managers, boards, and shareholders.
In today’s crowded marketplace, business leaders must focus on winning over customers and business partners asking, “Whom can I trust?” After all, why would you do business with a counterparty you can’t trust when there are exciting and valuable alternatives? Organizations that earn the trust of customers and business partners will be positioned to gain marketshare and thrive while lagging competitors fade away.
The decisions corporate leaders make now about cybersecurity will within 5 years separate winners from laggards across key industries for a generation. Organizations seeking to earn a competitive edge based on leading protections for systems and data need to put both long-term strategic decisions as well as tactical actions through this lens. Many companies already have some level of competency regarding trust. They are spending on security, resilience, and antifraud and defining career paths for technologists with an aptitude and appetite for these skills. But without a strategic approach, organizations are missing vital opportunities to gain value from their security function.
We all know that digital business leaders prize innovation and time-to-market, and that customers insist that controls be invisible and low-cost. And it’s often said that cybersecurity is a cost of entry, a constraint on flexibility, and “a necessary evil.” Perhaps as a result, with few exceptions (Apple, for instance) values of trust are seldom used for business advantage. Even in sensitive industries like banking and healthcare, selling propositions tend to center on convenience, cost, and coolness.
Forward-thinking chief information security officers, chief risk officers, and board risk committees can help organizations stop treating cybersecurity as a “cost of doing business” and start recognizing its potential as a competitive differentiator.
At Booz Allen, we know how to turn the information security function into a business differentiator by organically increasing the scope of involved stakeholders. Initially, the security mission focused on the five functions of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. As these capabilities are mastered via a process of continuous improvement, their scope and value can be increased to strengthen cyber resilience against threats to operational functions, and ultimately to enable customer-facing, revenue-enabling products and services that deliver value.
We have worked with clients to put this approach into action. A multinational manufacturer analyzed vulnerabilities in its operational technology (OT) assets and based on the findings, improved supply chain visibility and avoided disruption when online commerce swamped delivery channels, allowing the company to take sticky market share. An e-commerce sales platform provided plug-ins to seamlessly add biometric authentication for online shoppers, reducing shopping cart dropouts by more than two-thirds. A bank replaced its homegrown mobile app with a cloud-hosted multichannel experience and vastly increased account openings while shortening complaints resolution—while also reducing its data center costs and increasing availability to nearly 100%.
These are examples of how to win in the new, post-pandemic economy. Prospective customers, business partners, and regulators are seeking solutions and leadership based squarely on trust.
First-mover opportunities abound, as well as potentially disastrous pitfalls for those who choose to compete. Organizations that invest smartly in cybersecurity and expand its mission to enabling trusted commerce will reap positive competitive advantages.
It is "game on'" on a new playing field. Do you have your strategy to win? Booz Allen is your enabler of differentiation in this new environment. We uniquely fuse military-grade cybersecurity with proven expertise in transforming business to perform in a digital world.
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