In our most recent digital risk survey, we uncovered a wealth of interesting insights. A couple of these were very relevant to a hot button topic: the benefits of AI for business.

From our 600 senior enterprise IT and security professionals, we learned that:

  • 53% of companies “make use of AI tools to scale security and reduce costs through automation.” (A mere 11% don’t, and don’t intend to start.)
  • When it comes to purchasing new technology, 56% of companies say that “impact on business outcomes” such as revenue growth and agility is a top concern.

Taken together, these two stats are very interesting. In conversations, we often hear from industry figures something along the lines of: “We get it, AI is great, and super important for security. But it’s also expensive, and it’s hard for me to get buy-in for tools that are expensive but don’t drive growth.” Probably, this explains why that 53% statistic isn’t higher. Many companies are suspicious of the “reduce costs” notion.

This is the great misconception: That leveraging AI to manage risk is a purely defensive play. In fact, when security is automated and watertight, it becomes an active driver of business growth. The default view is to regard artificial intelligence in business as merely a sunk cost. In fact, when you use AI to effectively scale security, you empower growth teams to embrace the modern tools that are essential to growth. The real benefits of AI for business stretch right across all the revenue functions of a company.

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AI: Critical for Managing Risk

Businesses are correct to think that AI tools are crucial to scaling security. Better security is indeed one of the benefits of AI for business. The main reason for this is the volume and velocity of modern digital communications.

Today, if they want to be competitive, the typical company needs to make use of a whole arsenal of third-party cloud tools. This includes:

  • Company executives building their personal brand on LinkedIn.
  • Marketing departments leveraging all major social media networks.
  • Sales and Business Development Reps reaching out to prospects on WhatsApp.
  • Support teams communicating on Facebook Messenger.
  • Internal collaboration flowing through Slack or MS Teams.
  • And so on, and so on.

Taken as a whole, the combined digital output of these channels is enormous. At even a modest company, the output will run to thousands of messages every single day. Any one of these messages could contain noncompliant customer communications or sensitive company information or data.

Now consider the amount of files and links flying back and forth. Any of these could be malicious, releasing a phishing attack or delivering ransomware.

In short: A manual approach to security and compliance has no hope of keeping up. This means that, here, the use of artificial intelligence in business becomes crucial. Only AI-driven tools can keep up with the volume and velocity of interactions and messages being exchanged in these channels, and scale to properly maintain security and compliance.

Offense as Well as Defense: The Benefits of AI for Business

You would think that the adoption of AI to scale security would be fairly commonplace. However, the situation described above, where a variety of cloud channels are happily embraced by the whole company, is fairly rare.

Why? Because security and compliance teams believe that these channels – which exist way outside the traditional security perimeter – are problematic. They often lack the visibility to see into these black boxes and don’t possess the tools to effectively detect or combat threats.

As a result, often, security and compliance teams are forced to be the Department of No:

  • "Sorry, but the exces really shouldn’t use LinkedIn; we don’t know who might try and message them."
  • "Sorry, but marketing shouldn’t be too active on Twitter. If they are, an account takeover would be a disaster."
  • "Sorry, but sales teams definitely can’t use WhatsApp to talk to customers. We’ve no way of ensuring that their messages are compliant.”
  • "Sorry, we can’t allow private Slack groups. We’ve no way to enforce HR policies in these."

Security and compliance teams don’t want to be the Department of “No.” But they’re trying to do their job, and they (understandably) see these cloud channels as risky. They know that their manual review processes cannot secure them.

Here’s the thing: artificial intelligence in business can liberate security and compliance to become the Department of Yes.

This is the link between artificial intelligence and business opportunities. AI-driven digital risk protection tools can truly secure these cloud channels. They can offer 100% visibility and monitoring, around the clock. They can detect threats instantly, and take action to quarantine bad files or lock out intruders. These tools can be fully transparent and configurable – essential for regulated industries.

When cloud channels are truly secured, they can be embraced by growth-focused teams.

Moreover, the typical company now uses a large suite of cloud channels. Because of this, in order to truly unlock the benefits of AI for business, it’s important to have a security architecture or solution in place that covers all of these channels.

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Drive Business Outcomes with AI

We are often asked: “How does artificial intelligence affect business?” There are many ways to answer this question. But if they approach AI tools in the right way, companies can empower themselves to simultaneously become more secure, and drive more growth.

For example: Many security teams get nervous about WhatsApp. In regions such as South America, sales teams are desperate to use WhatsApp to reach prospects. But the security teams have no way to monitor the channel, and they’re understandably twitchy about the huge amount of messages it hosts. They are worried about malicious content, malware, regulatory issues, and more.

However, if the security team believes they can fully secure WhatsApp, then they can say to their counterparts in Sales: Go for it. Green light. Effective security becomes an enabler of growth. For the real-life version of this story, see here!

In summary: Approached correctly, the use of artificial intelligence in business can allow companies to apply security layers to every enterprise tool: the CRM, the collaboration tools, the customer-facing channels, the marketing tools, and everything else. The right tools can harness machine learning to monitor cloud channels for threats in a way that is impossible with a manual approach.

Once AI-driven security is instilled across the whole org, security and compliance teams can green-light new tools with peace of mind. From here, the benefits of AI for business can be realized:

  • Sales teams can meet customers where they are, on the chat apps they actually use.
  • Execs can fully embrace LinkedIn and Twitter for brand building and thought leadership.
  • Teams can use Slack or MS Teams to their full capacity without any HR worries.
  • Marketing teams can develop a robust and rich Instagram strategy.
  • Compliance issues can be monitored in real time, at a massive scale, in multiple languages – opening up whole new geos and markets.

Artificial intelligence in business should be a security tool and a business enabler. Security moves from being an annoying bolt-on, the Department of No – to being a crucial cog in the revenue engine. Faced with the needs of the rest of the enterprise to innovate and embrace new cloud tools, they can say yes.

In turn, executives and board members can begin to consider cybersecurity as helping drive business growth. Security becomes synonymous with revenue.

If more companies understood this fact, we suspect that more than 53% of companies would be making use of AI tools!