The Implications of an Accelerating Digital Transformation

Gartner's George Miller, a member of Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) Industry Advisory Board, sees a growing need for people who can bridge business and technology.

Gartner is a global research and advisory company with more than 14,000 client enterprises around the world. The company was founded to focus on technology research but has expanded to offer business leaders across all industries valuable insights into almost any aspect of their organization.

George Miller has spent the past 17 years working at Gartner. Today he serves as group vice president for Gartner Consulting, an extension of the larger company that helps CIOs and IT leaders achieve stronger outcomes in a digital world. Miller is also a member of the Industry Advisory Board for Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program, where he engages with students and helps the program stay current with the latest trends facing the IT industry. 

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, countless businesses of all types and sizes were already focused on better leveraging digital in their daily work. Now more than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, that trend has only continued, Miller said. 

"Digital transformation was already on an accelerated pace, and the pandemic gave it a shot in the arm to go faster," Miller said. "You can look at just about any industry and there will be some significant shifts toward digital." 

With that shift comes a heightened need for cybersecurity, something Miller says is often misunderstood. It may sound pessimistic, but Miller admits the biggest misconception about cybersecurity is that all data can be protected.  

"It's always going to be a race of protecting against those who try to come up with creative ways to get around whatever walls you put up," Miller said. "There is no fully secure data. It's all about minimizing the losses if and when you get hacked." 

Miller explained organizations should be more specific about understanding what needs the most protection. For example, health data that falls under the HIPAA Privacy Rule or intellectual property should have a heightened level of protection given the risk of it being lost. 

"If you put everything on lockdown, you likely will slow the pace of business, which is unacceptable for most businesses," Miller said. "You have to be more targeted than just having a one-size-fits-all approach to your data protection and data governance."

For organizations to understand and implement that protection, Miller explained that one of three scenarios has to happen. The first is that company  leaders approach their technology team and explain how the business is going to evolve and ask for guidance to understand how it can happen. The second scenario is that the tech team approaches the business leaders and highlights how new technology can impact the company. The third — and ideal — scenario is that the two groups come together and work creatively to understand how to both protect the organization while at the same time moving it forward. 

Miller said MSIT graduates are the people who can make that third option a reality.

"The purpose of MSIT is to bridge business and technology," Miller said. "In those situations where business leaders are not sure what technology implications are or they need to understand them at a deeper level, that is a great place for MSIT students and alumni to jump in. This is the nexus of business and technology, and they're there to bring those insights forward."

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