Boards ramp up data privacy and security spending in rush to become GDPR compliant

Boards of Directors are ramping up investments in data security and privacy in the rush to become General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant and avoid highly damaging data breaches which have reached an all-time high, reports the 2018 Harvey Nash Group/KPMG CIO Survey.

The largest IT leadership survey in the world, analysing responses from organisations with a combined annual cyber security spend of up to US$46 billion, has found that 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 of Directors.

Today’s IT leaders 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 the GDPR, over a third (38%) of those surveyed in April expected they would not be GDPR compliant come the deadline of 25 May.

Additionally, 77% of IT leaders are ‘most concerned’ about the threat of organised cyber crime, which is up from 71% last year. Only one fifth (22%) state that they’re 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 using customer data with the need for privacy and security. Those businesses managing this balance most effectively (ie 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 by 25% year-on-year).

Walking the tightrope

“CIOs have a really difficult tightrope to walk,” said Albert Ellis, CEO at the 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, 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. Organisations that can strike a balance between innovation and governance are in the strongest position to compete in a complex technology environment.”

Akhilesh Tuteja, global cyber security services co-leader at KPMG International, observed: “The seeming inevitability of a cyber attack crosses all borders and has now crossed firmly over the threshold for Board-level discussions. Protecting the business from a cyber attack has jumped further up the Boardroom agenda than any other item, and IT leaders are now being encouraged to make their defences the best that they can possibly be.”

A move towards digital platforms and solutions is proving a huge challenge for CIOs. While organisations recognise that an effective digital strategy is critical to successful data security, many report that they still struggle, with 78% stating that their digital strategy is only moderately effective or worse. More than a third of companies (35%, in fact) cannot hire and develop the people they need with digital skills, while almost one-in-ten (9%) think that there’s 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.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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