How Digital Transformation Impacts Business Risk

And what needs to be done to protect your organization.

Man holding walkie-talkie looking at multiple security monitors

Enterprises continue to grapple with the lingering impacts of the pandemic—inflation, supply chain woes, labor shortages and demand for remote work initiatives, to name just a few. Mitigating the impact of these issues requires enterprises to accelerate digital transformation timelines.

The reasons are clear. Done well, digital transformation enables a number of benefits for businesses, including:

  • Strengthened network infrastructure
  • Improved data collection
  • Better resource management
  • Improved customer experience
  • Increased profits
  • Reduced costs
  • Better return on investment (ROI)

These benefits, and others, are why global spending on the digital transformation (DX) of business practices, products and organizations is forecast to reach $1.8 trillion in 2022, an increase of 17.6% over 2021, according to International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Digital Transformation Spending Guide. Despite all the benefits companies can glean from digital transformation, it’s vital to recognize that a digital-first world requires renewed focus on service availability, quality, delivery and cybersecurity.

Always-On Connectivity

The best way to consider the possible business risks digital transformation presents is to understand the implications of what always-connected applications and processes mean for a company. Take e-commerce as an example. While it might at first seem simplistic to home in on the fact that e-commerce is a 24/7 initiative, it’s important to understand what that always-on connectivity really requires.

First, it requires constant, reliable connectivity that’s fast and issue-free. It also requires a significant level of trust on the part of users, who are providing their personal information with the belief it will be protected from threat actors. E-commerce consumers also expect site performance to be simple and fast, and they quickly lose interest and abandon shopping carts when annoyed, disrupted or distracted.

Digital transformation also reinforces the need for companies to focus on both service quality and cybersecurity, balancing the user’s digital experience with the functionality limitations that a secure service demands. This balance can be seen through the example of remote workers. Every IT organization that supported remote work during the pandemic received a trial by fire in doing so.

User experience was suddenly prioritized as a service measurement for IT organizations that had to ensure a positive digital experience in support of the efficiency and effectiveness of workers and workflows. Moreover, the pressure to ensure positive digital experiences wasn’t for employees only—customers, vendors, partners and others expected stellar digital experiences, and that expectation hasn’t lessened with the easing of pandemic restrictions.

For many companies, simply measuring user experience was difficult enough. The network visibility necessary to know what percentage of an enterprise’s workforce was accessing crucial collaboration apps successfully became much harder when those users were suddenly accessing those apps from their home networks around the globe.

The enterprise internet connections in corporate offices now became the umbilical cord for employees to access corporate applications and resources. Threat actors are aware of this, and their DDoS attacks could prevent workers at home from being able to access resources they need.

And even straightforward security processes like multifactor authentication could be detrimental to those user experience metrics. Putting more steps and load time between employees and their inboxes, or between customers and the “Place Order” button, makes the experience more secure but more cumbersome. Balancing these factors appropriately requires an improved level of understanding your network through visibility.

Despite all the benefits companies can glean from digital transformation, it’s vital to recognize that a digital-first world requires renewed focus on service availability, quality, delivery and cybersecurity.

But poor network performance and lax security can have much bigger implications than just lost sales or frustrated employees. For example, when the pandemic forced doctors to care for patients using telehealth rather than in-person visits, they needed excellent connectivity to accurately diagnose and care for patients.

But the hybrid workforce itself creates new security vulnerabilities, and the implications can be massive. Let’s look again at healthcare: Not only can disruptions negatively impact the delivery of high-quality care and clinical outcomes, but poor security opens patients, providers and organizations to the potential loss of personally identifiable information (PII) like social security numbers, medical records and more.

The point of these examples is to underscore the importance the digital experience has for all end users and endpoints, and to show that balancing security and user experience is crucial. The complexity of digital infrastructures demands that companies focus on how digital experiences are measured, monitored and managed. Likewise, it’s vital to understand that doing so is crucial to both business and IT success.

Where Problems Lurk

Overcoming the business risks associated with digital transformation requires an understanding of the potential risks and how to mitigate them. For instance, next-generation workloads are distributed, modular and stateless, which provides both speed and scale. And developers are eager to take advantage of these new application developments and delivery technologies.

But by the same token, threat actors are aware of the security implications of these technologies and, thus, target them for fresh attack vectors. As such, enterprises need to protect existing infrastructure with modern defenses that are able to absorb new threats and protect against the cyberattacks of today—and tomorrow.

Digital business models also enable organizations to move applications and data to the cloud, where they can take advantage of technology like the Internet of Things (IoT). But the weaknesses in these technologies are well understood by attackers, who increasingly target them with sophisticated distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

For many organizations, the best way to address these issues is by working with a vendor partner whose sole focus is ensuring the safety and security of enterprise networks. To counter many of the risks outlined here, industry and government alike have started adopting “zero trust” principles and extending the use of scalable deep packet inspection (DPI). Zero trust and scalable DPI working together help prevent data breaches. In the event of a breach, the ability to limit lateral movement and data exfiltration coupled with the ability to analyze data both in real time and retrospectively is imperative to restoration of services and return to normal operations.

Learn more about NETSCOUT’s Visibility Without Borders platform, which uses scalable DPI to improve network performance and reduce your business’s security risks.