At the 2017 NMSDC Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange, attendees were offered a selection of technology-focused programming that looked forward to the future of the supply chain. Sessions ranged in topic from cybersecurity and cyber threats to embracing digital disruption and how small businesses can leverage existing technology for success.
We've all seen the headlines: “Company X’s Customer Data Hacked; Millions’ Records Exposed.” 2017 alone was rife with data breaches; Verizon Wireless, Equifax, and Uber were just a few that made the news. To combat these types of threats, cyber-focused events continue to reinforce one of the core principles of robust cybersecurity programs: “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
Addressing the serious security challenges facing companies large and small, one of the most popular sessions at this year's conference was an interactive presentation with Devon Bryan, Chief Information Security Officer at the Federal Reserve System. Bryan discussed recent cyber threat developments in the supply chain, legislative developments impacting vendors, and best-practice tips.
A workforce shortfall is one of the largest security risks our nation faces, and a significant reason is under-participation by a large segment of the population. Bryan shared that according to a 2017 study by Frost & Sullivan, out of over 19,000 information security professionals across 170 countries, women represent only 11 percent of the total cybersecurity workforce, despite a projected workforce shortfall of 1.5 million people during the next five years due to a lack of trained professionals.
The percentage representation of African Americans and Hispanics in cybersecurity has been reported at approximately 12 percent combined for both these groups. Mentoring, supporting, and providing opportunities for minorities to succeed in STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs should be a priority for cybersecurity professionals, Bryan said. Not only is this “minority gap” a basic equality issue, but the loss of talent and innovation in the workforce threatens our global economic viability as a nation.
Closing the workforce gap is a long-term strategy, but what can companies do NOW to protect their systems and data? Ensuring the integrity of data through data enrichment is a step in the right direction. Other tips may seem basic, but they are often overlooked as businesses focus on products and services and neglect cybersecurity. For example, make sure every computer is equipped with antivirus and antispyware software and update it regularly. Another area where small businesses might misstep is crossover between data types: Whether you’re a retail, service, or manufacturing entity, you should always isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs..
Cloud computing, social media, apps, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, clean energy, constant connectivity—technology is changing rapidly, shifting paradigms and creating opportunities for diverse businesses.
“Disruption” is a buzzword being thrown around a lot right now, particularly with regard to technology, yet it doesn't carry a clear definition. In a session called “Adapting to Digital”, Andrea Boone, Executive Director, FSO Digital at Ernst & Young, suggested that “disruption” in this context is actually “transformation.”
“We are not simply seeing businesses shift or adjust their strategies,” she said. “We are seeing fundamental changes in business models and the industries in which they sit. This is not disruption. This is transformation.”
The keys to succeeding during this transformative era are to ask better questions (How can you help your people keep pace with the rate of change? What’s the smart way to apply the technology ecosystem at your fingertips? Are you looking at digital from every angle?
A robust, diverse supply chain and workforce combined with the right technology tools will help you collaborate, innovate, and succeed. A third party can help evaluate your company’s needs and recommend systems and tools to get you where you want to go.
How Small Businesses Can Leverage Technology
Several sessions provided information and tools for leveraging technology to streamline supply chains, ease administrative workload, promote supplier relationships, and increase customer engagement. Facebook hosted a workshop on how to use its social media platforms to grow a business through tools specifically created for small businesses. Representatives from Dell, Intel, and Google joined together to share how strategic technology decisions can help businesses scale, increase productivity, improve cyber security, and create incredible virtual experiences for customers.
In a session titled “Supply Chain of the Future,” a panel of experts from several industries shared how Industry 4.0 technologies enable new forms of collaboration within their companies and across all tiers of supply networks. Industry 4.0 refers to a variety of technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and additive manufacturing (such as 3D printing). These experts shared how minority business enterprises (MBEs), as well as corporate members, can utilize Industry 4.0 technologies to create opportunities for competitive advantage by allowing them to establish self-organizing networks with anyone.
By leveraging tools like a customized supplier portal, even small enterprises can enhance supply network agility and efficiency, deliver product/service innovations, work together on larger opportunities, and develop stronger customer-supplier relationships.