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Security, data, risk: Technology trends in a post-COVID-19 world

Greater risk appetite for new technology, a serious focus on cybersecurity, and demand for data-driven insights are three trends that governance and risk management professionals may find getting greater emphasis by their boards in a post-COVID-19 world.

KPMG Management Consulting Partner David Harradine has outlined these likely areas of growing focus ahead of his Tasmanian Governance Forum 2020 session ‘The drive to digital in a post COVID world’.

Global studies reporting that COVID-19 accelerated years’ worth of change within organisations[1], particularly in relation to technology and digital transformation, reflect the experience of businesses Mr Harradine has worked with during the pandemic.

“Many companies were poised to break through the ‘digital glass ceiling’ in coming years – plans were formulated by chief information officers and chief digital officers in many organisations – but progress had been incremental,” he said.

“Really, what the pandemic has done, is more for innovation, more for digital acceleration than the best-laid plans.”

The shift in the way people work, socialise, and purchase products and services has forced many companies to pivot to, or significantly scale-up, e-commerce and online services.

Digital transformation is crucial for success, he argues.

“Digital transformation, at its core, ensures that technology improves the customer experience at the front-end and that all the various systems and digital technologies in the back-end work together to make the customer experience seamless.”

As many businesses were tuning-up client and customer facing platforms and experiences, technology arrangements for employees to work-from-home were also being fast-tracked, pushing existing infrastructure, security systems and IT resources to the limits.

“Whilst they struggled initially, most organisations found the transition to remote working was made quite rapidly and more smoothly than expected. This is most likely due to many organisations, particularly larger ones, recognising that increasing the budget for technology enablement was a priority for business continuity,” Mr Harradine said.

This is the reason why the risk appetite of boards may change into the future, he explains.

“It’s fair to say that for boards during this pandemic, there really has been a tension in risk appetite. There was a very low-risk appetite for work from home arrangements prior to the COVID-19 response.

“Now we see boards prepared to take on more risk to deploy technologies, deploy resources, use budgets to ensure there was social distancing and the safety of the organisation’s workforce.”

With the speed of implementation of work-from-home arrangements, Mr Harradine advises that the focus of technology decision-makers and boards should be on ‘baking-in’ a robust technology security profile.

“There has been a mind for cybersecurity from a governance point of view in most organisations, but I think the need to act urgently early in the pandemic overrode thorough approaches. Now is the time for organisations to catch up and ensure there’s lots of hardened security to deal with these threats.”

In his session at the Tasmanian Governance Forum, Mr Harradine will examine sectors, such as healthcare and education, that will undergo – or that have begun to undergo – a seismic shift since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He will also set the scene for the 4th industrial revolution – defined broadly by the automation of traditional industrial practices – and how organisations could begin to consider their approach to advancing technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics.

The Tasmanian Governance Forum 2020 takes place on Monday, 26 October online and in-person.

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[1] Is the coronavirus pandemic an engine for the digital transformation?

How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever

Execute right: A guide to electronic storage and execution of documents and meetings

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