Boards ramp up investment in data privacy and security

Boards are ramping up their investment in data privacy and security in a rush to become GDPR compliant and avoid data breaches, a study by Harvey Nash and KPMG has found.

The CIO survey, analysing responses from organisations with a combined annual cyber security spend of up to US$46 billion, found almost a quarter (23%) more respondents than in 2017 are prioritising improvements in cyber security as cyber crime threats reach an all-time high, while managing operational risk and compliance has also become a significantly increased priority (up 12%). These two areas represent the fastest growing IT priorities of company boards.

IT leaders today face the challenging task of delivering rich, customer-centric data in an environment laden with risk. Data trust and privacy threats continue to hold the attention of CIOs, but while measures to improve data security are underway within companies and through legislation such as GDPR, over a third (38%) of those surveyed in April expected they would not be GDPR compliant at the deadline. Additionally, 77% of IT leaders are ‘most concerned’ about the threat of organised cyber crime, up from 71% last year. Only one fifth (22%) state they are well-prepared for a cyber attack.

The survey found that trust is the new battleground for IT, as organisations delicately balance the revenue-driving potential of utilising customer data with the need for privacy and security. Those businesses managing this balance most effectively (customer-centric organisations) are 38% more likely to report greater profitability than their competitors. However, the drive towards protecting data has caused a huge demand for ‘security and resilience’ skills, which experienced the biggest jump in skills shortages, increasing 25% year-on-year.

CIOs have a really difficult tight rope to walk,” said Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group. “On one hand the board is asking them to drive innovation, promote transparency and following recent high profile data breaches, ensure the responsible use of customer data throughout the organisation. On the other hand, the board is increasing scrutiny and demanding improved reporting on cyber security, data integrity and resilience, as regulators and consumers become much more demanding on personal data. The organisations that can get this balance right, between innovation and governance, are in the strongest position to compete in an increasingly complex technology environment.

The seemingly inevitability of a cyber attack crosses all borders and has now crossed firmly over the threshold for board-level discussions,” said Akhilesh Tuteja, Global Cyber Security Services Co-Leader, KPMG International. “Protecting the business from a cyber attack has jumped further up the boardroom agenda than any other item and IT leaders are being encouraged to make their defences the best that they can be.

A move towards digital platforms and solutions is proving a huge challenge for CIOs. While organisations recognise an effective digital strategy is critical to successful data security, many report they still struggle – with 78% stating that their digital strategy is only moderately effective, or worse. More than a third of companies (35%) can’t hire and develop the people they need with digital skills. And almost one in ten (9 percent) think that there is no clear digital vision or strategy at all.

To help with digital success, chief digital officers (CDOs) are proving their worth. Organisations with a CDO, either in a dedicated or acting role, are over twice as likely to have a clear and pervasive digital strategy than those without one (44% versus 21%). The report also shows that the most influential and successful organisations are fanatical about delivering value both to and from their customers – ‘Customer centric’ organisations are 38% more likely to report greater profitability than ones that are not.

Female IT leadership continues on an exceptionally slow upward trend, this year reaching 12% – up from 10% last year. Women represent just one in five (21%) of technology teams.

The industry appears to be significantly divided on the extent to which diversity matters to business success. Almost a quarter (24%) of IT executives say inclusion and diversity has no bearing on achieving business and technology objectives. 47% report it has some influence, and 30% say inclusion and diversity impacts business and technology objectives to a great extent.

Two thirds (65%) say skills shortages are preventing them from keeping up with the pace of change. For the fourth year in a row, big data and analytics is the number one skill in short supply (46%).

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