Handling the digital responsibility of the company

N°297a – Synopsis (8p.) – Ethics
Handling the digital responsibility of the company
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While the pace of digitalization is accelerating, companies can no longer ignore the new responsibilities that come with it. How can you anticipate the challenges to avoid being taken by surprise?

In all sectors of activity, the race towards digitalization has started. And the Covid-19 pandemic prompts companies to further accelerate their transformation. To continue operating, many have deployed Click & Collect systems in a rush, increased their push for internet sales, shifted remote teams’ training and management online. Chatbots and other smart software have been used to conduct prospecting or customer service remotely.

These transformations represent a major operational challenge, which can rapidly monopolize the attention of the company executives. But beware: they also raise more fundamental questions, linked to the digital responsibility of the company. Let’s take the example of a training institute that has deployed an online teaching platform during the lockdown. Its main interest, beyond offering an alternative to face-to-face training, consists in recommending a customized learning path for each user. To do this, an algorithm compiles the needs of the company, the preferences and aptitudes of the staff members and even their availability by taking into consideration their workload. A very sophisticated tool that however raises tricky questions. For example, do any of the employees plan on converting to a different job? When do they connect online? This information has a private nature and it is important to protect its confidentiality. Besides, the training institute becomes entirely dependent on a computer tool. Therefore, how can it prevent irreparable damage in the event of outage or cyberattack? And, would this damage be limited to a temporary interruption of the activity, or would it extend to the harm incurred by the customers? Without even discussing the impact of this transformation on jobs: shall the institute get rid of its face-to-face instructors or should it retrain them—and if so, for which new function? And what consequences will these choices have on its reputation

As many questions that clearly illustrate the dilemmas that are inherent to digital transformation. Ignoring them would expose the company to new risks, be they operational, legal or reputational. The challenges must be anticipated without panic but with clear-sightedness. Here are some pieces of advice to start or further the reflection. 

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