Building Trust Into Your Product by Design

Content By Devops .com

In today’s world, every tool, every solution and every technology has the potential to do both good and bad. Good, if used according to the way it was designed, but bad if it falls into the wrong hands, or is manipulated or abused. As the ‘Peter Parker’ principle says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and consumers look to digital communications to maintain some sense of normalcy and connectedness during these desolate times, the onus is on us, industry leaders, to ensure that the products and services being developed to connect and communicate with disparate employees, customers, and partners aren’t weaponized by bad actors.

The best way to do this? By building trust into your design.

You Have to Define Trust to Know How to Build Trust

According to Merriam-Webster, the dictionary definition of trust is “one in which confidence is placed.” But the reality is that in today’s world, there are many ways trust can be perceived.

Think of the automotive industry, where trust can be tangibly seen in the growth and success of certain car brands over decades. There, trust can be seen as ‘brand loyalty,’ or customers who repeatedly purchase from the same brand because they trust the company and trust the product.

Trust in technology is the same. It has to be engineered and cultivated, but at the end of the day trust in the product must be mirrored by consumer trust in the organization. The two go hand in hand.

The best way to approach building and sustaining trust when developing new products boils down to three key things: integrity, third-party accountability and consistency. Integrity stems from delivering high grade products and solutions, in conjunction with demonstrating accountable, transparent communications at the organizational level. Third-party validation further underscores that integrity, and restates the quality of products and services being delivered from a third-party perspective. And finally, consistency; being able to deliver exemplary products and solutions on a continual, consistent basis – the most essential ingredient in maintaining and bolstering trust among customers.

Transparent Communication is Key

As we enter 2021, the threat landscape is fraught with bad actors looking to take advantage of the latest threat vectors and emerging technology. As our lives continue to transition from physical to digital, and as more personal information is stored online, companies have to prioritize proper and timely communication about cybersecurity incidents.

This brings us back to organizational trust being foundational for trust in a product. If you’ve seen the Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ you know that social media is an oft-cited example of technology being misused or manipulated by bad actors. But after Twitter suffered a social engineering attack in July, the platform issued a swift update to its users. They were open, prompt and transparent in their analysis of the event, and highlighted not only the updated safety precautions put in place in response to the breach, but also underscored their ongoing commitment to trust and transparency within the Twitter community.

Incidents like these, though harmful in the short term, can be less detrimental if addressed and communicated in a timely, transparent manner. There’s a saying, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.’ The same goes for proper breach disclosure within the tech industry as a whole.

Trust has Never Been More Foundational to the Business of Building

As we enter 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, more companies than ever are finding themselves in the business of building. Healthcare providers are drumming up new ways to digitally engage with patients and providers outside the physical confines of a hospital. Financial services organizations are adding more immediate, personalized ways to engage with customers when, where and how they need it. Educators are creating new digital solutions to keep millions of children, learning from home for the foreseeable future, engaged. And retailers are rebuilding the in-store experience for customers entirely online.

With so much building going on around us, it’s important to keep in mind that the building process today requires not only outlining what you’re trying to build and defining how you intend to use it, but also analyzing how it can potentially be abused, manipulated or rendered ineffective.

Consistently running your products and solutions against the latest threat models is one way to ensure your products’ security posture is up to date with the latest attack vectors. Another idea is to incorporate ‘security champions’ into your product development process and teams, to act as mini consultants who evaluate potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Once you’ve incorporated methods like these, turning to a third party to assess and sign off on your product’s cybersecurity resiliency is a good way to validate your products’ security adherence and effectiveness in the face of ever-evolving threats.

Trust and Development Should go Hand in Hand

At its core, trust and development should go hand in hand. Developers don’t need to recreate the wheel every time – there are plenty of libraries available online to leverage and pull from. What’s most important is for developers to understand the libraries they’re using to build, and ensuring that proper security protocols are built in from the start.

Trust can seem like a huge lift, or an unnecessary distraction on the way to an MVP, product launch or update. I assure you, this is not the case. No matter how big the effort may appear, investing in trust – and the various methods, ways and changes that harden your products and services against abuse – will pay dividends down the line. Customers will trust your product and your company, and will, therefore, be more likely to remain loyal. If nothing else, keep in mind that building trust takes time, effort and consistency, while losing trust can happen in the blink of an eye.

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