It has been two years since our lives have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a way, it has brought about tremendous change in a very short time. The most obvious is how we quickly transitioned to digitalisation, and in the business environment, we have embraced a highly agile digital workforce. Many traditionally brick-and-mortar businesses, including B2B, have also gone online fully or partly to continue to engage with their customers and partners.
Data, as expected, has proven to be a lifeline with the increased digitalisation. IDC projected that the amount of data to be created and collected by 2025 will be at a whopping 175 zettabytes. While businesses are today better positioned to pivot agilely and embrace digitalisation in response to disruptions, many are still grappling with a sound strategy against the greater exposure to cybersecurity risks that going digital also brings.
In 2022, I posit that businesses will recognise that their earlier rush to enable remote working via cloud-based applications have come at the expense of data protection and compliance. This year, business leaders will also focus on driving customer/user experience, enhancing operations and productivity, and driving cost efficiencies.
In view of that, many business leaders will want to tap on technology to accelerate change. They will want to leverage data and analytics to drive business competitiveness and growth. Here, I see three key trends that will reshape business and data strategies this year.
Trend #1: Look towards longer term cybersecurity strategies
That ransomware attacks are spreading like a digital plague is not new news. What is surprising, however, is that people are feeling like cyberattacks pose greater risk than natural catastrophes. According to a recent Allianz Risk Barometer survey, business disruptions (53%) and cyber incidents (42%) ranked as top risks while natural catastrophes ranked fifth (18%) among respondents.
There may be a point to this: Prior to the pandemic, many of the cybersecurity measures set in place were reactive measures focused on recovery, offering temporary protection at best. Currently, with distributed or hybrid work arrangements and a more accepting view to bring-your-own-device practices, most businesses have become more vulnerable to cyberattacks. What with workers working from home, accessing company applications and data from their home networks, and some using personal devices that lack enterprise-level detection and protection capabilities.
This year, instead of putting band aids over wounds, businesses need to seek cybersecurity solutions that offer longer term benefits alongside immediate recovery. Decision makers will want to ensure that business-critical, confidential, and essential data is properly locked down, air-gapped, and backed up.
Additionally, CIOs and IT leaders will begin mandating that their teams conduct periodic “fire drills” to test the strength, resilience, and speed of their cyber defence, and disaster-recovery processes and solutions. This serves two objectives: To test that their strategies work and to continuously assess systems put in place.
Trend #2: Manage data sprawl generated by a distributed workforce
While some workers may return to the office, hybrid work arrangements remain the norm this year. As such, there remains a significant amount of data that will be generated by a remote workforce and this will expand the boundaries of data sprawl.
The short supply of corporate or IT-issued equipment during the pandemic also means that many workers, especially home-based ones, are turning to their own personal devices. This further expands the data sprawl to personal devices that are not traditionally part of the organisational network.
Thus, businesses will want to gain a clearer view on their data, including data that is being generated by and stored with remote workers. They will want a sound strategy to best harness and protect this data. They also need ways to bring all data back to a single location to properly analyse and glean intelligent insights from it to make meaningful decisions.
Trend #3: Leverage trending technologies and DevOps best practices
If there is anything the recent DBS and OCBC scams have shown us, it is that cyberattacks are increasingly calculated and sophisticated. We can expect to see more evidence of this in 2022. Ultimately, no sector is immune to cyberattacks – cybercriminals will target any businesses and organisations with data, especially data of value.
For this reason, businesses will look into new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to simplify and strengthen its data protection initiatives. Aside from strengthening their tools, businesses will also introduce new agile, DevOps-like teams dedicated to optimising how they manage and use their data. These groups — comprising data security, protection, analytics, and other types of data experts, along with IT operations staff — will be tasked with quickly and efficiently improving the security, protection, governance, and value of their organisations’ data.
These agile data teams can also synergise with business teams and work together to find new ways to leverage data analytics, AI, and ML to improve business outcomes.
Data crucial to businesses longevity
The previous year brought major change across the world. Personally, I’m hopeful that we will be able to control the virus and adjust to it as an endemic disease in most parts of the world. We are trusting advancements in healthcare and medical science to help us reign in this virus attack.
On the cyber front, another battle is raging. The fact is data is the “oil” that is keeping the businesses, organisations, and even society running. As the intensity and sophistication of cyberthreats continue to evolve, we will need to keep two steps ahead by having a sound strategy in managing, protecting, and recovering our data. We will need to secure our data to ensure longevity of our businesses.