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The different types of technology; their strategic importance, and the security consequences

‘In a digital world, the gift I give you almost always benefits me more than it costs.’ - Seth Godin

There has been much talk of disruptors, organisations being disrupted, or disrupting their industry, or adjacent industries. The Cisco video above prompts these conversations within my clients, what many don't know it is from 2012. Things have progressed, but we are nowhere close to realising the potential shown. There are "disruptive efforts" within many organisations. I have found that many are safe, experimental, are part of people's time and often on the edge of an organisation. They are exciting initially; however, after a while, fatigue sets in and then they generally wither. Those that don't have found a dedicated use of technology. Presently, there is plenty of fatigue (understandably so); anything discretionary or seen as optional is being deprioritised as people wait to see how 2021 plays out.

The pandemic has driven the adoption of technology. The National Australia Bank chief executive Ross McEwan, said: "What might have taken 10 years all happened within six months".

But, is this IT and not all technologies?

Technologies are different, and they need to be treated so. Organisations must be biased, and these technology biases link to a strategy anticipating where their industry is heading and the role their business will fulfil. Analysing and categorising technology helps.

  • Information Technology (IT), the traditional IT department, consisting of infrastructure, network, applications, data, and security. The priority for everyone since 2020 is a secure, hybrid environment enabling work anywhere (home, office, and coffee shop when not in lockdown).

  • Operational Technology (OT), is the automation of manual activities such as the robotic cleaning of a floor in a shopping centre or a driverless train in Paris's metro. OT is common in manufacturing, emerging in building management as analogue devices become smart. The scale of OT may enable customer technology, i.e., the location of robotic cleaning informing patrons where to not walk.

  • Customer Technology (CT), generally enabled by a mobile device and application powered by relevant data. Great CT will create valuable, unexpected experiences with their insect of data, possibly location and the availability of an opportunity. Like turning the traffic lights green when there is no other traffic or offering a customer a special deal when they are close to your store.

They are all dependent on security that must span beyond IT and be continually reviewed. The consequences of a security issue with your strategic technology could be catastrophic; consider the following:

  • CT: The theft of customer information that is made publicly available, eroding an organisation's reputation and losing customers who may never return.

  • OT: The interruption of product creation or the orchestration of services offered, resulting in multiple reliability issues.

  • IT: The theft of corporate information, compromising organisational knowledge while most likely disabling the users for a time.

A dynamic organisational security program is not without risk; issues may still occur. However, the remediation is likely to require considerably less effort and cost. Further, it enables the pursuit of technology potential, avoiding a business stagnating. If your organisation is uncertain of its technology biases, begin reviewing the security across all technologies so you are ready when decisions are made.

What IT achieved in 2020 will likely be the catalyst for CT and OT's evolution.


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