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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Data, Security, and Digital Business: The Eternal Braid

Only when data is embraced as a core asset of your organization and security is accepted as a daily business issue can real digital transformation occur.

In the lexicon of business, the term digital transformation has taken on an awe-filled presence. It represents nothing less than the modernization of stale business and in that way has become a metonym for progress. This, combined with the positivism that defines technology and its aura, has created the sense that digital transformation is an unbridled "good," the tip of the linear arrow of progress and growth.

For Further Reading:

Analytics and AI-Driven Business Transformation Is Coming

5 Steps for CDOs to Transform Data into a Strategic Asset

Security Analytics: Our Last, Best Hope?

In some ways, this is no doubt true. Enterprises are reducing time to value, reducing friction in process, and transforming idea into practice in ways impossible even 10 years ago. By and large, these are all good things, but with every facet of innovation and positive change there comes the Janus-like twin face of risk.

Balancing the Risks and Rewards

This is not a particularly new idea. The complementarity of risk and reward is an age-old concept, but never before has the scale of either even come close to what it is now. Just as ships and airplanes carried both people and ideas to new lands, they also carried disease and pestilence. Societies balanced these -- some well and others not so well -- and business organizations need to as well. In fact, this balance is likely the single most important unit of comparative advantage for any corporation in the modern, digital age.

A particularly acute area in which this plays out daily is data. It's become a truism that data is the world's most valuable resource; it's also become a truism that because data is so valuable, the need to protect it is paramount. By channeling the famous bank robber Willie Sutton (who, when asked why he robs banks, said sheepishly, "Because that's where the money is"), you can understand why data is the subject of increasingly complex cyberattacks.

Democratizing access and use of data is core to agility and growth but is also inherently fraught with great risk. This is the fundamental conundrum of digital business.

Data, security, and growth are thus fundamentally interlinked, like three fibers wound around each other to make a powerful braid. Digital transformation emphasizes and combines all three for the sake of scale and velocity.

Still, many executives fail to balance these forces; they think of security as an episodic concern. They neglect to see security as an everyday, fundamental part of the digital whole. Living from disaster to disaster is no recipe for sustainable life in any sphere of existence.

The genesis of this misconception about the connected nature of digitally-based growth and matters of security is that too many decision makers think of the latter as a "technology" issue; in fact, it's a business issue, with all the glorious complexity that implies. When thought of holistically, security is a matter of technology, people, and process issues. Balancing these with an ever-evolving framework that accounts for changes in attack vectors is the key to mitigating -- to the extent possible -- the business risks that emanate from security and that are part and parcel of digital transformation.

When data is embraced as the core asset of any organization and security is simultaneously thought of as a daily business issue, real digital transformation is possible.


About the Author

Romi Mahajan is director of Blueprint Consulting Services and CEO of The KKM Group, a strategy and advisory firm. In his career, he has spent the better part of a decade at Microsoft as is the Chairman of Data Infrastructure Partners. He can be reached via LinkedIn at

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