In the pandemic’s first three months, CEOs report, their organizations digitized at surprising speed, advancing to year two or three of their five-year plans. The future is now: digital health, industrial automation and robotics, enhanced ecommerce, customer service chat bots, virtual reality-based entertainment, cloud kitchens, fintech, and more.
The health crisis and economic recession have stoked further change, according to our Global DTI 2021 survey: 40% of executives say they’re accelerating digitization — perhaps taking on business strategies they hadn’t imagined before.
Their digital ambitions have skyrocketed. Twenty-one percent are changing their core business model and redefining their organizations (the “redefiners”), while 18% are breaking into new markets or industries (the “explorers”). Both categories have doubled since our survey last year.
Doing things faster and more efficiently is the top digital ambition for 29% of executives (“efficiency seekers”), while 31% are modernizing with new capabilities (“modernizers”). More than one-third — 35% — say they’re speeding up automation to cut costs, which is no surprise at a time when revenues are down.
New technologies and business models — and the fast pace of adoption — bring new risks. But, like the high-powered brakes on a racecar, cybersecurity makes high-speed digital change a lot safer.
Nearly all (96%) say they’ll adjust their cybersecurity strategy due to COVID-19. Half are more likely now to consider cybersecurity in every business decision — that’s up from 25% in our survey last year.
Savvy CISOs are in step with the vision and goals of their enterprise as a whole, not just IT. “One of our key jobs is to engage with our partners throughout the organization that will help us achieve our objectives. If I haven't created a culture where people want to engage and proactively come to security rather than shy away from us, I don't think we'll be able to get there,” said Katie Jenkins, CISO, Liberty Mutual.
New times also call for new CISO leadership modes. Forty percent of executives say they need the CISO to be a transformational leader (20%) or an operational leader and master tactician (20%).
These roles are encompassing and call for the multifaceted expertise that CISOs have built. The transformational CISO leads cross-functional teams to match the speed and boldness of digital transformations with agile, forward-thinking security and privacy strategies, investments, and plans. The operational leader and master tactician is a tech-savvy and business-savvy CISO who can deliver consistent system performance, with security and privacy throughout the organization and its ecosystem amid constant and changing threats.
Some CISOs already inhabit these roles, and are exhibiting four qualities most prized by executives: strategic thinking (38%), the ability to take smart risks (38%), leadership skills (36%), and ability to recognize and nurture innovation (34%).
It’s a critical juncture for cybersecurity and CISOs. A business-driven cyber strategy is the important first step for business and security leaders amid sweeping, rapid business digitization. This reset not only defines the expanding role of the CISO, it also affects the way the organization sets cyber budgets, invests in security solutions, plans for resilience, and enhances its security organization. It determines whether CISOs may grow to become stewards of digital trust, able to lead their organizations securely into the new era with strategies to protect business value and to create it.
“One of our key jobs is to engage with our partners throughout the organization that will help us achieve our objectives. If I haven't created a culture where people want to engage and proactively come to security rather than shy away from us, I don't think we'll be able to get there.”