Client: EY

Topic: B2B Security

Content Types: Article, Interview, Thought Leadership

CLIENT NEEDS: Ernst + Young wanted greater visibility and growth for its online security products and services. To reach prospective B2B customers, it needed a campaign establishing expertise, thought leadership, and product capabilities.

DELIVERED: After researching EY’s product data and interviewing stakeholders, created a series of interviews with EY executives, paired with client case studies. A sample interview from this series is below.

Building Online Trust the B2B Way

This year, an estimated 77 percent of the world’s e-commerce will take the form of B2B transactions, making it the biggest market segment in the digital economy. And yet, the B2B space is experiencing growing pains as it is defined and positioned as a commercial approach. To better understand the work involved in strengthening B2B companies, we recently spoke with Jerry DeVault, partner and head of eRisk Assurance Solutions at Ernst + Young, a leading professional services firm with offices around the globe.

Q: What would you say is the biggest issue facing Internet-based B2B right now?
DeVault: Undoubtedly trust. In the business world, this translates primarily to confidentiality and integrity of information, security, availability, identity, authorization, and intellectual property issues. The digital economy has some quirky to it—and companies, with their alliances, partnerships, franchises, outsourcing, and other models of connectivity, often have what we call a “discontinuity of trust” between some of the stakeholders.

Q: In what way?
DeVault: In many B2B models, there’s a fear of insufficient security—possibly even of a commingling of data—and it can create an environment that destroys trust between entities. The last thing businesses want their competitors to know are their client lists, pricing information, customer satisfaction levels, purchasing information, and so on. Businesses want assurance from other enterprises that a high level of system reliability and security exists. And, significantly, as businesses are becoming dependent upon e-commerce networks, they want to know that these business partners are going to be available nearly a hundred percent of the time. As a business becomes increasingly connected throughout its supply chain, its processes absolutely must operate as disclosed.

Q: How else do discontinuities of trust manifest themselves in B2B e-commerce?
DeVault: Many businesses that rarely connected with strategic partners in the past are now reaching out online and connecting with whomever they think can provide the best value. The buyer needs to know that the selling company is reliable and is who it says it is before locking into a buying relationship. And the seller needs to know that the individual buying has the authorization to buy. No one wants to ship 10,000 units to somebody who can’t hold up their end of the deal.

Q: Explain how you work with your clients to add integrity and trust to their businesses.
DeVault: Our approach in the B2B marketplace isn’t to go in and sell a “product” to plug a gap. The EY approach starts with offering a well-tuned ear, listening to what our clients are trying to accomplish—who they have trusted relationships with, and who they want to build trusted relationships with—and then tailoring a solution to meet those needs. Often their goal is to earn something called a CyberProcess Certification, which lets them give their business partners an independent report on how they conduct business. In addition, they’re able to place a seal of approval on their site to show they’ve been examined by a CPA. The client might want to use an established standard like SysTrust—a set of system-reliability principles developed by the AICPA and CICA, or establish customized testing criteria.

Q: What’s your take on the effectiveness of other seal programs on the market? TRUSTe, for instance, analyzes a company’s privacy policy, then leaves it up to the company to self-regulate.
DeVault: I think they’re part of the solution. We see a problem when there’s an expectation gap—when people think these other seals are doing something they aren’t. What we try to do is add something that’s missing in these other models—the final gold standard—by engaging an auditing firm that’s highly objective and experienced, from both technical/infrastructure and process perspectives, to rigorously test whether a company is actually following their policies.

Q: How important is this going to be—particularly for startups lacking an identity or new organizations just beginning to establish their brands online?
DeVault: It’s huge. The online startup with an aggressive marketing plan has to create a brand. They’re going to want to come out strong, saying “Trust us.” If these startups can offer a robust, quality solution, and people feel very confident, it could push these young companies ahead of the pack in terms of acceptance. But it’s equally critical that brick-and-mortar companies maintain the same level of trust with their online business partners as they’ve had offline—and that they become market leaders in the connected economy.