Imagine this: Your organization has a project that must be done yesterday, but there are no in-house resources to do it. The manager in charge defines the project and posts it to an online work marketplace. Responses come in over the internet, they are vetted, and a contract is finalized.
Through an open distributed ledger, the manager is able to manage all the deliverables for the project and compensate the work source—never knowing if the work was done by a person, a team or a piece of software. That’s the world of work on blockchain technology. Welcome to the future.
Connected digital technologies are changing the nature of work. The traditional model of “one person, one job,” is fast becoming a relic of the past. Hold onto your hats. If you think things have changed significantly in the recent past, the pace is about to accelerate dramatically.
This transition has huge ramifications for cybersecurity. It will redefine today’s concepts around trust and digital identity. It will change how we make payments and even who we pay—blurring the lines between work done by humans and machines. It will force CISOs to adopt new skill sets and areas of expertise.
“Decision-makers, ranging from enterprises to governments, need to understand the fundamental dynamics of this rapid shift in the world of work and the inevitable impact on cybersecurity,” according to Gary Bolles, Chair of the Future of Work program at Singularity University. “They must determine the kinds of strategies they can follow to not only mitigate those risks, but also to effectively prepare themselves to leverage a more dynamic and adaptive workforce.”
In his lectures, speeches and writings, Bolles urges business leaders and board members to act now to make sure their organizations are not blindsided by a rapidly changing workplace. Instead of being reactive, they should be striving to get ahead of the curve, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity. Bolles is one of the authors featured in the upcoming second edition of Navigating the Digital Age, published by Palo Alto Networks
Preparing for the Digital Work Economy
The transition to what Bolles calls a “digital work economy” is being fueled exponentially by the rise of technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and blockchain use cases. As business leaders prepare to address the cybersecurity challenges of this transition, they should be aware of several key trends that will redefine the workplace, including:
- Alternative work relationships such as the rise of unbundled work, whereby organizations are able to distribute work when, where, and how it is most effectively performed—and, especially, by whom (or what).
- The blockchain-enabled workforce, which has the potential to redefine compensation to the point where the organization may not even know if the work was done by a person, a team or a piece of software.
- A brave new world of digital identity, in which business relationships are performed using a complex web of digital currencies. Business and IT decision-makers need to experiment with value transfer mechanisms to determine how to best meet the needs of their organizations.
- The rise of machine learning and IT, forcing business leaders to determine whether the relationship between humans and technology is complementary or competitive. One important question to consider: “If you could automate every single task in the enterprise and replace every single human with algorithms, would you?”
Security Ramification of the Digital Work Economy
This transition will force business leaders and board members to adopt a new mindset when it comes to cybersecurity. “The enterprise security fabric needs better flexibility and greater comprehensiveness than ever before,” according to Bolles. “Enterprises that invest in strategies to incorporate these dynamically changing issues will be far better prepared to understand and leverage new work-related technologies.”
Business leaders can take actions now to begin the process of defining their work environments on their own terms, and deploying cybersecurity processes and technologies to prepare their organizations for the future of work. Bolles recommends focusing in on four key areas as starting points:
- A fluid infrastructure for identity: Enterprise identity models must continually allow for new players and roles to be rapidly defined, provisioned, and distributed. But these roles must also be dynamically managed, with automated oversight.
- A comprehensive infrastructure for defining and managing data: Data management policies must grow and adapt as data assets reach breathtaking scale and global distribution. Enterprise security policies must incorporate the likelihood of changing laws and regulations around the world, as well as the need to manage, secure, and remove data as required.
- A bigger, more comprehensive and strategic role for trust management: The dynamic management of trust and value transfer through blockchain technology and other open ledger platforms will become commonplace. The ability to understand, design and implement complex trust interactions between enterprises will be a core skillset.
- Tight, seamless integration between cybersecurity and business operations: As the ways in which value is transferred blurs the lines between IT and operations, decision-makers within technology, cybersecurity, and business will need to work in concert to manage the organization’s digital value assets. Bolles encourages organizations to begin working with independent coin offerings (ICOs) to practice with new forms of value transfer: “This will empower the enterprise to become adept at managing a portfolio of digital assets.”
The transition to a digital work economy driven by blockchain technology and other innovations is not only inevitable, it’s already here. We are entering a time when the pace of change will accelerate quickly. As Bolles notes, this is the time to be a leader and not a laggard.
Forward-looking organizations have an opportunity to act now and transform cybersecurity into a business enabler. With a dynamic, fluid, all-encompassing cybersecurity model you can unleash a huge amount of economic value. Now is the time to start building that model.