Mark Hickman, COO at WinMagic
Mark Hickman, COO at WinMagic

We all know the traditional workforce is gone for good. Today's new generation of worker – the Now Generation – wants to log on and work when, where and how they want.  They are agile, mobile, productive and collaborative on demand. Failing to provide this flexibility makes you an unattractive employer, and shrinks your talent pool. Traditional corporate boundaries have gone too, with data residing on all sorts of desktops and mobile devices, not to mention the cloud. It's scattered, on the move and exposed.

For a long time, the IT industry has spoken about the challenges posed by BYOD, but in truth that was only a part of the problem, focused on the device, and one that is diminishing compared with other aspects.  The confidence the IT industry has with the use of both public and private cloud services, the exceptional connectivity we all now enjoy (just compare it to five years ago), and expectations of users about how and when they will work – even the apps they will use on devices – is not only increasing the attack surface, but making it a shape-shifting amorphous blob that it's hard to keep tabs on!

Organisations that want to reap the productivity rewards of their increasingly mobile workforce need to keep planning for this expansion in mobile and remote workers, and the uncertainties and risks that an expanded attack surface brings.  It is not just external attacks that are an issue, Gartner Research has stated that the accidental loss of mobile devices is growing too, causing nearly a quarter of all security breaches.[1]

As a business you are at greater risk of data breaches, accidental or at the hands of hackers.  A staggering 90 percent of large businesses had a security breach of some kind in 2015, up from 81 percent in 2014.  According to BreachLevelIndex.com, in 2016 the number of data records breached in the UK rose 36 percent to over 42 million.  By comparison, in 2013, the same site records only 1.9 million records lost, a mere 4.5 percent of the 2016 figures.  The costs of breaches are also rising.  The average cost to a large business of a serious security breach more than doubled from £1.46 million in 2014 to £3.14 million in 2015.  

Regulations around data privacy and protection are of course changing too with the imminent arrival of EU GDPR. Non-compliance fines could shut your business down, with the penalties for boards that do not adequately protect devices and encrypt data becoming crippling.  EU GDPR fines for failing to take the necessary precautions are will be as high as €20 million – or four percent of worldwide turnover – whichever is higher! If you operate in, or trade with the EU, this will impact you.

So how can you intelligently plan for and empower the Now Generation, whilst also ensuring that you better protect your business?

Data security and business outcomes can be transformed when IT leaders align their strategies with the genuine needs of key departments. That means taking a positive new approach to the challenges posed by the Now Generation. Treating them not as unwelcome threats but instead creating holistic digital workplace initiatives that embrace on-demand working.  This means taking an employee-centric mind-set to data and security strategies, which:

  • Compels organisations to face how employees really work and rethink how their needs are assessed and security programmes are constructed.

  • Breeds a more approachable and friendly way of talking about security, helping people understand and adhere to policy.

  • Favours the creation of ‘frictionless' any-device, anywhere, anytime digital workplace practices.

Starting from this foundation will ensure employees can be as productive as possible, whilst maintaining security standards.  An employee-centric approach doesn't mean ignoring security basics either, with the right technology it is perfectly possible to create a high-security employee-centric environment.

Security is an enabler – without it, it's impossible to implement the freedoms the Now Generation demand. Students looking for their first career move value highly the flexibility companies offer in the way they can work. Companies that cannot deliver, will lose out on the best talent, and find it hard to get the best from the staff they have.  That should be motivation enough for any company to consider whether their data and security strategies are holding them back.

[1]  Gartner Research: Embrace Unified Workspaces to Deliver on Your Digital Workplace Vision 7th October 2016

Contributed by Mark Hickman, COO at WinMagic

* Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media or Haymarket Media.