Taking steps

Since the onset of the pandemic, the supply chain world has not only experienced unprecedented disruptions, but also the pressure to deliver items that were once much easier to obtain as quickly as possible. The challenges facing the supply chain industry, such as the labor shortage and product delays, have dominated headlines over the last two years, but there is another challenge that will gain focus in 2022: cybersecurity.

Along with adapting to the ongoing volatility, there is continued uncertainty around work arrangements. The supply chain is now made up of professionals in the field, working remotely at home, or using hybrid models. While flexibility in the workplace has been declared the ‘future of work’ and has been an invited change, the evolving workplace needs to be managed carefully to avoid vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks. With only 7.5 percent of companies confident they are protected against cyber-attacks in the remote work environment, the supply chain is increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could exacerbate existing strains and must take the necessary steps to ensure they are combatting cybersecurity risks.

The supply chain has been working on solutions for the challenges they are currently facing but addressing the security vulnerabilities within the supply chain should also be a priority for the supply chain to run effectively. In order to prepare for and combat cybersecurity risks, supply chain organizations must commit to increasing collaboration, creating transparency, implementing agile technology and establishing governance. These initiatives can not only help protect a fragile industry from cybersecurity threats but can help strengthen the industry as a whole.

Increasing collaboration
In the supply chain industry, organizations often experience slow reactions or are unprepared for challenges due to disconnected teams and knowledgeable professionals working in silos, which creates a lack of transparency throughout the supply chain. When organizations do not focus on collaboration and ensuring information is available across teams, they are allowing themselves to be more susceptible to cyber-attacks.

With many workers physically separated, collaboration is more important than ever before to ensure an organization is aligned. Organizations within the supply chain need to adopt technology that promotes collaboration and helps employees connect with ease while eliminating silos. Collaboration is a vital tool in creating visibility across the supply chain, which can help employees recognize issues more quickly. Recognizing cybersecurity issues in a timely manner is key to minimizing disruption and getting an organization back on track.

While collaboration alone cannot prevent or combat cyber-attacks, increasing collaboration across teams with guardrails in place can strengthen organizations and help them prepare for potential challenges. To negate any possible vulnerabilities, every member of the organization needs to be an active participant in ensuring the organization is secure.

Creating transparency
Along with collaboration, transparency is key to mitigating risk and promoting a secure supply chain. To ensure teams across an organization have visibility into important data, organizations should practice data centralization.

Scattered data that is difficult to access is a security risk, and organizations need to ensure they have the infrastructure and systems in place to properly manage data. Without properly managed data, essential employees may not have insight into key information during a crisis, which lengthens reaction time and exposes an organization to further risk.

By having centralized workflows and data, organizations can have information in one convenient place that can help them identify where there may be vulnerabilities and can create faster response times should they face a security breach. This level of visibility is essential to managing issues quickly and accurately.

Implementing agile technologies
With ecommerce increasing in popularity due to the pandemic, strained supply chains are expected to deliver quickly. Amid both labor and product shortages, this has become an increasingly difficult goal to achieve.

To meet goals while remaining secure, organizations within the supply chain industry need to implement agile technology. Organizations that use agile technology in day-to-day operations can approach challenges confidently due to increased collaboration and transparency.

Agile technology, such as low-code/no-code, not only promotes transparency and collaboration, but can aid organizations with responding to challenges such as cyber-attacks with speed and accuracy. Adopting low-code/ no-code technology helps organizations create platforms especially for their needs that can evolve with any issues they are facing. By having technology that adapts, organizations that make up the supply chain industry can be agile under pressure.

Establishing governance
In the remote work environment, 70 percent of workers are using their work devices for personal tasks. Although this may seem harmless and in many cases the home has become the office, this can make organizations especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

To ensure all employees, whether in the field or working remotely, are contributing to the security of the organization, it is important to establish clear governance for employees to follow. Organizational leaders should create guardrails and provide training early and proactively as new technology is introduced so employees feel confident when adopting technology and understanding their role in preventing cyber-attacks.

By giving a clear path forward through guardrails and training, employees can help alleviate security issues around remote work and establish boundaries between work and home to ensure their organization is not vulnerable.

Ensuring a secure supply chain
The supply chain has continually needed to change and adapt over the past two years, whether it’s accommodating shortages or shifting to remote work, and cybersecurity measures must follow these efforts. Taking steps to ensure security and prevent cyber-attacks in the remote work environment is key to facing challenges and remaining agile through potential volatility. By making collaboration, transparency, adopting agile technology, and establishing governance a goal, organizations can not only contribute to promoting a more secure supply chain but can also better workflows and reaction time to a variety of challenges. Ensuring security and preventing vulnerabilities is vital to building a strong, reliable supply chain and by taking steps to combat these risks, the supply chain can face current challenges and thrive.

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor

Deb Gildersleeve is CIO at Quickbase. Quickbase provides software that helps organizations see, connect and control every element of complex projects. The no-code platform enables organizations to improve operations through real time insights and automation across complex processes and disparate systems. Quickbase helps nearly 6000 customers, including over 80 percent of the Fortune 50.