With a large majority of consumers purchasing online regularly, and a volatile history of widely publicized data breaches, errors, ransomware and hacks victimizing customers and businesses, digital trust can make or break an organization in the modern marketplace—and can be the difference between retaining reputations and customer loyalty after a major incident and suffering serious, time-consuming, and expensive losses.
New research from India-based digital trust community ISACA and its resulting global State of Digital Trust 2023 report reveals insights from 537 digital trust professionals on digital trust benefits, obstacles, priorities, responsibilities and budgets so business leaders can see how their organization measures up.
Digital trust is a key factor in successful transformation
In the report, 85 percent of respondents said that digital trust is extremely or very important to digital transformation. Organizations with high levels of digital trust can gain tangible benefits and positive business results. The top benefits reported are:
- Positive reputation (64 percent)
- Stronger customer loyalty (62 percent)
- More reliable data on which to make decisions (56 percent)
- Fewer privacy breaches (55 percent)
- Fewer cybersecurity incidents (54 percent)
- Ability to innovate faster because of the confidence in their technology and systems (51 percent)
- Higher revenue (36 percent)
Even with these stated benefits and with 90 percent agreeing that demonstrating a commitment to digital trust will ultimately make organizations more successful, only 24 percent have a dedicated digital trust staff role and only 36 percent say their board of directors has prioritized digital trust. Eighty-two percent of respondents say measuring the maturity of digital trust practices is extremely or very important, yet 31 percent do not measure the maturity of digital trust at all.
Measurement is a significant differentiator and leadership is driving this, 34 percent say they do not currently but will likely have a Chief Trust Officer, or Director of Digital Trust, in the next five years. Seventy-two percent are completely or very confident in the digital trustworthiness of their organization, but this jumps to 89 percent among those that measure digital trust maturity.
How a holistic approach can help reduce obstacles and reap benefits
Security, risk, data integrity, privacy, governance, quality and assurance are listed among the many key components of digital trust. Over a third (34 percent) are planning to increase budgets for digital trust activities, indicating that digital trust can be implemented as an umbrella approach that encourages existing individual areas to work as a cohesive whole.
“As organizations move to a digital-first business model, trust is the essential component that must be earned before, during, and after every interaction,” said Tracey Dedrick, interim CEO of ISACA, in a news release. “Digital trust is a holistic, organized approach and offers a new and integrated way for organizations to look at what they are already doing. Digital trust is an umbrella that ensures existing functions are operating in sync and in the most optimal manner to ensure others have trust in the organization. A digital trust framework that is aligned with enterprise goals is essential and can contribute to impactful positive outcomes.”
While significant additional budget or headcount may not need to be allocated to the digital trust, a holistic, organized approach and a digital trust framework that is aligned with enterprise goals is essential and can contribute to impactful positive outcomes.
“It is critical that boards and the C-suite be closely involved in ensuring digital trust is positioned as a top-tier strategic benefit,” said Dedrick.
Significant barriers need to be addressed
The top obstacles to attaining high levels of digital trust are lack of skills/training (49 percent), lack of alignment of digital trust and enterprise goals (47 percent), lack of technological resources (45 percent), lack of leadership buy-in (42 percent), insufficient processes and/or governance practices (39 percent) and digital trust not being treated as a priority (37 percent).
On a positive note, an improvement in the “lack of skills and training” over the previous year’s survey indicates a gradually increased understanding of the value of digital trust. In 2023, 45 percent offer digital trust training to staff (up from 43 percent in 2022) and 72 percent say digital trust is extremely or very relevant to their job (66 percent in 2022). Though it is trending in a good direction, there is a need for acceleration.
Responsibility for digital trust
The respondents noted that either the board of directors or senior leadership has ultimate responsibility for their organization. Despite this, only 36 percent say the board of directors has prioritized digital trust.
“With most businesses now operating via digital platforms, instilling and safeguarding digital trust is becoming critical. Digital trust relies on organizations prioritizing quality, availability, security and privacy, ethics and integrity, transparency and honesty, and resiliency—not only creating value for their business, but doing the right thing and benefiting their customers,” said R V Raghu, ISACA Ambassador in India, past ISACA board director, and director, Versatilist Consulting India Pvt Ltd, in the release. “Digital trust is about creating a better, safer digital world for everyone.”
Businesses aren’t walking the walk
Digital trust guidance will have a significant impact as only 34 percent currently use a framework for their digital trust practices, although 85 percent believe it is extremely or very important to have a digital trust framework.