Like any fashionable phrase, “digital transformation” is often applied—and mis-applied—to a lot of different IT initiatives. The process is not just about adding a new application here or using a data set there—it’s about a fundamental change in thinking. It is an evolution, not just an event, with organization-wide implications. Yes, digital transformation is a technology-driven endeavor, but it still requires significant shifts in an organization’s non-technological components as well, such as culture and management. When considered this way, one could argue the technology piece is actually the easiest part of any digital transformation initiative, which means finding methods for proper execution will be critical.
A Useful Framework: The Six Pillars of Digital Transformation
Frameworks can help businesses navigate the organizational complexities of digital transformation, and they are useful for planning strategies while also aligning teams and resources. But when it comes to actual execution, you will need specific tools and tactics, especially as they pertain to security and compliance. Fortunately, an analyst firm focusing on technology and innovation, Futurum, developed such a framework for organizations and people looking to successfully evolve their initiatives. In it are six pillars to focus on beyond just technology, which is the seventh.
While each one of the six pillars—culture, experience, people, innovation, change and leadership—is applicable across the entire organization, planning for digital transformation that’s secure and compliant requires specific technologies and approaches that both support your initiatives and provide assurance and control.
1. Foster the right culture among your engineering teams.
Digital transformation isn’t a project, it’s a way of life. If you don’t build a culture of transformation, you won’t be able to sustain it over time. Organizations are increasingly adopting a DevOps model to increase agility, accelerate time to market, improve quality and provide a better customer experience, all of which are critical to successful digital transformation. Accomplishing this while ensuring systems remain secure and compliant requires DevSecOps, or orchestrating the discovery, prioritization and remediation of software and infrastructure vulnerabilities across the entire DevOps process.
2. Protect the integrity of the customer (or employee) experience.
Companies become market leaders primarily for one reason: they deliver a superior customer experience. If you don’t understand the customer journey and their expectations, your digital transformation can miss the mark. And don’t forget the employee experience, which is just as critical. Surprising and delighting users through feature and UI innovations is the most immediate and visible part of the customer experience. Less exciting—but absolutely critical—is safeguarding your systems from attack and keeping user data secure. With increasing reliance on third parties across infrastructure, application security, code review and notification technologies, you need a holistic view of the security postures of all those partners. And ensuring ongoing compliance with requirements and standards such as PCI-DSS is critical.
3. Empower your people to focus on creating value.
Technology may sit at the heart of digital transformation, but people are the ones at the heart of your business. Organizations who invest in their teams receive better work in return—better quality, better ideas, better service to customers and so on. Lack of employee engagement is a well-documented issue in the general workplace, which means your digital transformation efforts will flounder without engaged and knowledgeable employees. Unfortunately, this process does not just happen with foosball tables and endless free snacks. Employees want the opportunity to do interesting and meaningful work—and as an employer, it is your job to make their work fruitful and possible. Outsourcing non-core activities, such as using the cloud rather than building out your own infrastructure and services, and automating time-consuming tasks, such as vulnerability testing, let your teams focus on work that has a more direct link to valued business outcomes.
4. Drive operational innovation.
New isn’t always better, which is why successful digital transformation requires companies to enable and support truly innovative thinking throughout the organization. Innovation is a natural part of digital transformation. But innovation isn’t just about products and services—not every employee is an inventor in that sense. Teams must innovate their thinking and their operational plans and processes. As organizations adopt continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) of their software, code and application security approaches must be unified and automated across the entire development and delivery pipeline.
5. Design for rapid—and secure—change.
Digital transformation simply cannot happen without change—but that alone can be excruciatingly hard. Organizations need to provide the tools and environment for employees to embrace change. Digital transformation demands agility, which is why many organizations are moving toward a microservices architecture. Applications are shifting from monolithic to modular using fine-grained services and lightweight protocols. You can adopt a microservice from anywhere to address a specific requirement, enabling rapid development, testing, deployment—and yes, change. Security testing and remediation across a microservices architecture can’t be a bottleneck; organizations need to automate application and infrastructure vulnerability testing.
6. Enable effective leadership.
These pillars aren’t managed on their own; they require proactive leadership to keep teams aligned and momentum moving forward. The most capable leaders are proactive, identifying issues coming down the pipeline and addressing those challenges swiftly and effectively. This requires visibility. For organizations to manage their IT risk, leaders must understand their software and infrastructure security and compliance posture at any given moment, and they need to identify the business impact of risk mitigation and remediation efforts.
Arm Your Teams for Successful Digital Transformation
Digital transformation requires a significant organizational effort, and IT risk management is just one component of this complex undertaking. Adopting a digital transformation framework, like the one outlined here, works to successfully align everyone and their different functions, whatever they may be. When it comes to security and compliance, executing on the framework requires arming your teams with resources—tools, processes, support, etc.—to easily and consistently orchestrate and manage risk across the organization.