On April 21, 2021, Noord hosted a virtual boardroom in association with Zivver. The event comprised an introduction by Rick Goud, Chief Information Officer, and Steven Clarke, Strategic Account Director, who were both representing Zivver. This was followed by a discussion between IT professionals on reaping the benefits of secure digital engagement.
Opening of the session
The session was opened by Rick Goud, who explained that he had founded Zivver back in 2015 after noticing that there was no user-friendly and secure solution for data encryption on the market as the GDPR deadline approached. At the time, existing solutions focused on encryption, and encryption-based solutions alone cannot mitigate security risks linked to human error. Zivver now has 160 employees and over 4,000 customers, with a substantial presence in the public sector.
Steven Clarke noted that he had joined Zivver to head up the public sector avenue in the UK to help clients address the challenge of balancing usability and security.
Reasons for attending and key challenges
Participants were asked to outline their reason for attending and any key challenges faced by their sector or organisation.
Many participants were representing the public sector – including councils, the police force, and the NHS – and there was also representation from the higher and further education sectors. Many were keen to explore the next steps in terms of security solutions, has reached a certain stage in their digitalisation strategies, which had been accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As one participant put it, the ‘further along we get, the greater the security challenges.
A common theme was reluctance to change within the public sector, stemming from a risk averseness that seemed to be embedded in the institutional culture. However, one representative from the NHS explained that their trust was moving patient records to the cloud, while an IT consultant working with a borough council noted that the council was pushing ahead with a full-blown digital transformation, including a new platform, website and self-service function.
Individual challenges cited included mitigating the threat of ransomware attacks, sharing, and managing permissions for documents when dealing with multiple organisations, and making cloud-based systems secure and accessible for users.
Improving digital communications management in a context of accelerated change
Rick highlighted the challenge of minimizing change for employees, noting that when undertaking digital transformation, organisations should start from where they are now rather than from where they want to get to. The key to encouraging digital adoption is to disguise solutions as incremental improvements rather than entirely new ways of working.
In the police force, it was felt that staff are not trusted with the full functionality of technology owing to the potential security risks they pose – with one attendee noting that this may be down to the police force’s wider approach of reacting to threats as they arise rather than planning.
Such excessive control by IT departments was seen as blocking people from making decisions. In this respect, participants agreed that there is a need to balance risk taken against usability allowed, which perhaps ought to start with a behaviour and education piece for users so that they feel more confident in using technology securely. Moreover, given that the cyber systems of the future will be very intelligent, the only way to make them more secure is to involve people. For instance, security systems in the future will likely analyse people’s behaviour patterns to detect unusual or fraudulent activity.
There was also a discussion of digital poverty and the many barriers to digital inclusion. As a potential solution, the example was given of a ‘digital drive’ at an NHS trust to explain to employees what digitalisation will involve and understand what they want to see.
There was consensus that the pandemic had accelerated digitalisation for many organisations, as it often takes a compelling reason to push such initiatives forward. One positive consequence of this is that the ‘naysayers’ in an organisation become more malleable and less reluctant to change where they are forced to take decisions in a crisis.
Interestingly, a representative from the police force noted that the same people embracing digital change in one area of the organisation were completely opposed to it in another area – suggesting that there needs to be a demystification process around some uses of technology to encourage adoption.
Looking ahead: The future of remote working
Participants discussed their organisations’ plans for the immediate future. While home working was seen as beneficial for productivity by one attendee, there were some caveats to remote working in the long term, including the possible adverse effects on health and wellbeing, the risk of discrimination for those who choose to work from home compared to those who opt to travel into the office more frequently, and the lack of separation between work and home life.
Many agreed that hybrid working would become the norm, and it was felt that the Covid-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to give employees some say over the kind of working arrangements that work best for them.
Moreover, the pandemic had highlighted IT professionals as unsung heroes, as it was felt that people had developed a new-found respect for IT staff, which was a positive for the sector.
Putting people first
It was mentioned that in rolling out technical solutions, many organisations decide on the technology before they decide what they want to accomplish by using the technology. Rick drew on the example of a public body which had been insistent on keeping all its data on physical premises, but after drilling down into why this was the case, the underlying reason was that the client wanted to limit access to the data – without being aware that there are better ways to accomplish this, such as via encryption. It is therefore important to challenge assumptions and get to the heart of organisational reluctance.
Putting people first also involves educating employees as to why a certain technology solution is being implemented and how it will benefit them. The key to this was felt to be top-down awareness-raising initiatives within organisations.
Closing of the session
Summing up, Rick noted that the role of technology vendors was changing and that companies like Zivver must see themselves as partners solving problems rather than suppliers selling products. In this regard, Zivver was committed to working with clients from start to end and focusing on customer lifetime value.