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If you are a senior leader in an organization, I am sure you have been asked the question – “What is your digital strategy?” You may also be getting tired of people telling you that new market entrants (especially millennials) are disrupting traditional business models and are forcing you to redefine the end to end customer experience. And here is another good one- “Have you hired a digital transformation executive yet?”  While I make light of all the digital hype, this transformation is not a joke – it is a survival necessity.

In my view, there are two approaches that an organization can take to modernize digitally – ‘internal business process out’ or ‘customer experience in.’ While it is beneficial to do both, prioritizing one is pragmatic. If you are one of those esteemed organizations which have prioritized their digital presence around customer experience, you must have thought how you can protect the privacy of your customers or you are thinking about it right now.

Tracking and analyzing customer data and behaviour is a vital part of any digital strategy. It reveals possible opportunities by providing customer experience insights and helps maintain rapport with your client base. You can obtain information about your customers from many sources apart from the traditional online or mobile interaction. You can collect sensor data from homes, cars, wearables, and potentially implants as well.  But how will this data be used?  Will it be shared?  I am going to assume that customer data will be shared within and outside the organization- be it driving patterns tracked by P&C Insurance companies, health data procured by Life Insurance Companies and investment patterns followed by Wealth Management firms. Currently, the easiest way to communicate or share information is to use existing and familiar tools such as email or text messaging applications. When using these applications to send/share customer information, how are you ensuring it is kept confidential? I will come back to this later, but first, let’s consider the consequences of leaked client information and the possible opportunities that exist if customer privacy is properly managed.

Making privacy, priority
As customer interaction with organizations becomes more digital, the risk of sensitive information ending up in the wrong hands has dramatically increased.  We have seen a myriad of brand names in the news around privacy breaches where customer information was compromised. What does this do to the relationship you have with your customers that are affected, as well as prospective clients?  When confidence is lost between an organization and its customers, there is a direct negative impact on profitability and reputation. Alternatively, if your customers understand that you are making their privacy a top priority, there is a new level of affinity resulting and in turn a positive impact on profitability can be realized. A reliable relationship makes it much easier to increase one’s wallet share of existing customers and capture new customers through word of mouth – I’m showing my age – I should have said through social media!

Let’s come back to the question of how to ensure that customer data stays confidential when sending this information with traditional communication tools.  Most tech savvy people would say “that’s easy – encrypt it.”  The problem is, it’s not easy. We face complex interaction between user experience, manageable infrastructure, and security. If you are a large organization, consider the myriad of encryption delivery methods- TLS, SMIME, PGP, Portal, ZIP, PDF and the list goes on. Each method has its own value depending on the use. Also, the recipients you are communicating to and the local privacy standards must be taken into account. Alas, it’s tough to simplify your infrastructure when dealing with the multiple flavours of encryption delivery alternatives. It doesn’t stop there – this complexity tends to expose itself to the user or recipient. This causes problems when a big part of your digital strategy is based on simplifying processes and the entire user experience.  Why do so many organizations have one or more encryption solutions and none is used to the extent it should or must be? Complexity of the solution!  And who wants to invest in on-premise infrastructure and the resources to manage this encryption complexity. This problem cannot be ignored, although many try to do just that.

Securing, Mobile experience
Another issue that must be addressed as part of a digital strategy is the mobile experience. How do you ensure mobile users enjoy a risk-free experience while sending and receiving secure information using encryption technology? Some might say through Javascript or an external app. But who wants another mobile app? The mobile experience must be natively inherent in the solution you deploy.

I would say that there are only a few solutions that can enable you to share sensitive information in a simple way that will enhance the effectiveness of your digital transformation strategy. Even fewer that can in turn alleviate infrastructure complexity, enable you to confidently manage privacy, allow you to deal easily with numerous encrypted messaging alternatives, enable a seamless mobile experience and ensure the ability to create unique branding based on a business unit or market segment.

Email communication makes it easy for your customers and partners to receive and send information and is a key element of digital communications. It’s time for a solution that makes it simple to secure confidential information through this pervasive communications mechanism.

Reach out to the experts at Echoworx for further insights and visit the links below to additional content that may be of interest.

Download Report | Encryption Delivery Methods

By Randy Lenaghan, VP Sales, Echoworx

This article originally appeared in InfoSecurity Magazine