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A Digital Solution to Supply Chain Security

As September’s Airbus cyber-attack news demonstrated, there has never been a more important time for companies to pay attention to their supply chain security.

The aircraft manufacturer was forced to take action after a hacking operation was detected. This was aimed at many of its suppliers and resulted in unauthorized access to some of its most vital supply chain data. According to APF, Rolls Royce and French tech supplier Expleo, as well as two other unnamed French Airbus suppliers, were targeted in an attempt to gain access to the company’s entire network.

These instances are now pervasive across numerous other industries as businesses are under increasing pressure to digitally transform to remain competitive. Third party solutions for components and systems are increasingly being used to support the transformation, and these have opened up wider networks for interaction with a company’s data pools.

Hackers have exploited this new level of commercial interactivity and exposure through third party involvement, developing new approaches to infiltrate business operations and intellectual property. It has the potential to be a weak link and has become a preferred method of penetrating a company’s security infrastructure. In fact, third party data breaches rose by 50% last year alone.

So it has become vital for companies to establish and deliver robust due diligence around their supplier relationships, and the related parties who could potentially access their systems as a result of those relationships.

Adequately securing and managing a supply chain now needs a more robust digital approach, and electronic delegation of access rights offers a method to effectively deliver this. By digitizing delegation, it’s now possible to support access rights within complex networks while also ensuring the correct levels of trust. 

Delegation upgraded
Delegation of roles and rights has become far more complex in recent times as it has grown in importance commercially to accommodate evolving business ecosystems.

Traditionally, the physical delegation process has been highly inefficient, inconvenient and expensive as extensive notarization and face-to-face interaction is required. With digital delegation however, businesses can avoid all of these disadvantages with the ability to decentralize.

With that in mind, the process of electronic delegation is highly scalable, quicker and, crucially, it is far more secure. 

Delegation through online channels also reduces the administrative burden on a company’s workforce, allowing them to focus their efforts on more commercially important objectives and lowering costs significantly. However, somewhat surprisingly the majority of organizations have yet to adopt it. 

A digital solution to complexity
The traditional tool used widely in commercial environments has been Identity & Access Management (IAM) solutions. These have allowed staff to manage their roles and rights in accessing sensitive or protected assets, IP and other resources. In principal these tools have enabled a degree of user management through various degrees of delegated administration. 

Yet for day-to-day requirements, including supply chain management, more advanced digital delegation is necessary for handling the numerous complexities involved. With third party networks becoming so complicated, it allows individuals to delegate not only across individuals within an organization, but also between organizations themselves.

An industry agnostic solution
There are many examples of digital delegation in progress across various private and public sector organizations in support of supply chain security. In Finland, for example, they are using it within their tax submissions platforms, with businesses and citizens able to delegate the various roles required for government tax submissions. 

Here, the process accommodates the aligned hierarchy of delegation, allowing tasks to move from C-suite level (CEOs and CFOs as a starting point) to CFOs, to delegation across all the relevant third parties and employees involved.

Some sectors face extensive third party involvement in their operations and for these the ability to use delegation to manage access within their supply chains is vital. Numerous examples exist across industries including finance and telecoms, and the energy industry also stands to benefit significantly.

In most developed countries, the energy industry can use electronic delegation extensively to control access rights to energy contracts, user details and different tenancy structures.

Future objectives
With growing pressure on organizations to innovate in an increasingly competitive and complex world, it will become vital to create and implement delegation services that operate digitally. Supply chains can only become more intricate in the coming decade and, to accommodate this, businesses must aim for advanced methods of securing them.

In the near future, digital delegation and the services that feed into them are likely to become far more commonplace with private and public sector organizations alike. The cost, productivity and scalability benefits will create a strong desire to adopt the solutions amongst organizations – but it’s the security considerations that will create the need.

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