Building Trust in Digital Systems

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Building Trust in Digital Systems

Trust is integral in any relationship, whether personal or professional. Organizations would not be able to move forward without trust. When new changes are implemented, businesses require constant cooperation for evaluation. Trust holds an enterprise together throughout implementation processes and ensures everyone is on the same page regardless changes made within an organization.

From dealing with complex challenges to everyday problems within a business, trust in leadership, fellow employees, and to some extent even trust in the purpose of the company is what keeps an organization running. And this is only on the business end of things. Trust plays an integral role in the relationship between a business and consumer. Consumers need to be able to trust in the business in terms of quality, efficiency, and punctuality of deliverables, consistency of product and services, and security with personal data. Without the key component of trust, things would fall apart.

Trust in the Digital Age

Before the digital age dawned in most aspects of business, trust was simpler to build and repair. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Rachel Botsman states “The characteristics of “institutional trust” were that it was big, hierarchical, centralized, gated, and standardized.” This worked for companies like Goldman Sachs and AT&T, but doesn’t translate into a working trust relationship for the network of market based companies like Airbnb and Etsy. Botsman elaborates, “The DNA of “peer trust” is built on opposite characteristics – micro, bottom-up, decentralized, flowing and personal.” As things become more digital, the way trust is built, lost, and repaired is being turned upside down. For example, ideas that would have once been considered potentially risky like renting your home out to a stranger based on reviews by other strangers, or getting a ride with a stranger, are now the basis on which booming business models are built.

It’s interesting—more and more people trust these digital systems, but choose to be more critical when it comes to other digital facets like social media. Could it possibly be because these systems serve a more tangible purpose, in that they save users money, or provide an alternate experience? Social media on the other hand is not often associated with a business purpose, but rather as a manipulated tool to boost publicity that often strategically omits business details.

Blanket Trust

That being said, society has increasingly put a lot of trust in all digital systems, giving them an almost godlike power to control our daily lives. Stories of cyber security breaches and bucket loads of data being wiped out are manifold; yet, people continue to trust in digital systems like apps, websites, and online company platforms with important and often private data. Popular apps and sites ask for permissions and information that we would be wary to hand over to a stranger, yet without hesitation, we hit “accept.” According to Patricia L. Hadre, University of Oklahoma, “This blanket trust occurs because many people are ill-equipped to judge the trustworthiness of specific technologies. This inability to discriminate quality in technologies, coupled with the systemic social wave of digitization, leads many people to treat digital tools and systems as a generic whole.”

It becomes the responsibility of the business to build and keep that trust, in every way possible. Digital trust is built through a combination of security and ethics at each and every stage of any digital journey. One without the other simply won’t do anymore. As companies move to digital platforms, revenue channels are driven by chains of data, integration, and infrastructure. These are aspects the consumer never really sees. Rather, consumers implicitly trust the information they provide will be protected. If this security is breached, it won’t matter where it happens. No matter how legitimate the hows, whens, and whys are, the result will be a consumer whose trust has been irreparably broken — this is the only thing that matters.

In today’s world, businesses can lose customers in just a few clicks. While one dissatisfied customer can take business elsewhere, the far-reaching powers of social media means that they can take hundreds of customers along with them.  Take the example of the data breach within Target in 2013 where about 40 million customers’ credit and debit card information was stolen. Customers took to social media saying Target had “failed” them, and were extremely angry at the company’s inefficiency in dealing with the aftermath of this data theft. A violation of trust thus becomes an issue that can affect the company in significant ways, from revenues to even costing executives their jobs.

Although this shift in the trust dynamic will be messy, it is vital for businesses to recognize the importance of building trust in their digital systems. On the upside, the move from traditional institutional trust to a more individual focused trust can be beneficial to both start-ups and established businesses. Amazon is one such established brand that has successfully taken advantage of this shift through the launch of Flex, a crowdsourced delivery service, in Seattle. Even though new complexities in terms of risk, security, and accountability are bound to occur, businesses in the digital age will have to find a way to handle this shift and build trust in their systems. Why? Because ultimately, trust is absolutely necessary for any relationship — business or otherwise — to succeed.

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Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.

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