Franklin University Discusses the Impact of Digital Transformation in the Modern Business World

Andy Igonor, Ph.D. - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree

Andy Igonor

Professor and Dean, Ross College of Business

Franklin University



Marilyn Finfrock

Hybrid IT Professional



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Professor and Dean of the Ross College of Business at Franklin University, Andy Igonor, discusses the impact of digital transformation in the modern business world. 


MF: We're here today with Dr. Andy Igonor, who is the Co-director at Franklin University Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education, and also Professor and Dean at the College of Business. Franklin University is an organization that is based in Columbus, Ohio and has approximately 1,100 employees. My name is Marilyn Finfrock, and I am with Flexential, formerly known as Peak 10 + ViaWest, and I will be your guest moderator today. Let's get started. Dr. Igonor – in your opinion, what is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies that is beginning to impact our work or our lives?


AI: One of the ways that I would describe, um, exciting disruptive technology is the whole digital transformation itself. A good example is Uber. You see companies today with no products, no infrastructure, yet they are disrupting business models and building multi-billion dollar corporations. Another other example is Airbnb. They don't have a single property, yet ruin the multibillion dollar corporation. So, digital transformation is really altering the way we do business today. And as a result of that, you're hearing of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Essentially what they're doing is looking at ways to automate knowledge work and the more knowledge work you can automate, the quicker and easier it is to start a business. So, long and short of it is, digital transformation is here to stay, and we’re going to see more and more businesses come out of this phenomenon.


MF: It is bringing forward convenience to individuals in an efficient way for the digital transformation. Excellent.


AI: Absolutely.


MF: How are you using the said technology for positive change or disruption in your organization?


AI: You know, Franklin University is actually one of the first universities to completely have programs online. Back in 1993, we moved our MBA program completely online. And when we started that, people thought, “Wow, this is crazy. No one is going to come to you.” But we're seeing more and more working adults wanting to earn and learn at the same time. And online learning has afforded them the flexibility and the opportunity for them to study while also making a living. Now, interestingly enough, we’re beginning to see countries like Saudi Arabia or Poland come to us to help them completely design programs that are fully functional online. So, we're taking this beyond just teaching and learning for students. We're making this part of a consultant service where organizations are coming to us and we're helping them put, uh, programs and courses completely online. So, Franklin is at the forefront of this digital transformation, and we're changing the way people learn. And I think that more and more universities are beginning to follow suit.


MF: Excellent. How do you fuel your efforts for your team to get  excited about digital transformation and embrace it? How do you establish those innovation efforts for your team to utilize?


AI: Well, one of the things that we do is, we try to practice what we preach. So, we learn by doing. We recently started what we call the International Institute for Innovative Instruction. Otherwise known as I4. I4 is a center that has a number of um, just excellent designers. These are Ph.D. instructional designers who understand the theory and the practice of designing curriculum. So they have at their disposal, the infrastructure, they have the technology, they have all of the things that they need to be able to show people how to design curriculum. So we take people on a tour of I4, and as soon as you walk into that space, you understand what I'm talking about. So, even from, you know, from my colleagues, from my colleagues who in other colleges who, um, probably are not sure of how to build curriculum, when you take them into the center and they look around, they’re inspired, you know? So it's, it's a lot easier to convince somebody when you show them what you want them to do, rather than just, basically preaching and then not really seeing the practice. So through the center, the International Institute for Innovative Instruction, we are able to demonstrate, uh, real-life practical responsive approaches to how we design curriculum and how we also aid students in their learning in the classroom. And when I talk about the classroom, I mean the virtual classroom.


MF: So, it's bringing forward the knowledge base of different individuals to collaborate hands-on with the technology.


AI: Absolutely. You said it better than I could have done.


MF: I just picked up on your words. Let's switch gears a little bit. Let's talk about security, as you have responsibility for cybersecurity.


AI: Right.


MF: There's so much in the news these days about companies that are being hacked and the critical data that's being stolen. How worried should we really be?


AI: You know, I wouldn't use the word worry. I think we need to be aware. Because, when you're worried, it essentially denotes a sense of confusion that you don't know what's going on. I think we need to be aware that this is happening, and that awareness should actually fuel the need to, um, to have security education and training. Um, there’s something I call these SETA model, which is security, education, training and awareness. Awareness really speaks to knowing what you need to know. Because if you don't know what you need to know, you can’t protect yourself from it. And then training – so, how do I protect myself? And education is, why should I even care? So, um, I wouldn't say worry. I would say we need to be aware. And then the next step will be to now go into education and training.


MF: So, with having said that, uh, not only corporations, but individuals to be aware and to be educated, how should corporations respond to situations where they've been hacked?


AI: Um, I think research has shown us that attacks happen a lot more inside the corporation than externally, which means that a lot of people in the organizations, again, do not understand what it is that they're looking for. You will have thought that, we'll have more attacks happening through applications, through computer systems, where there’s minimal control on your part as an individual. But what we've seen is that there's an increase in social engineering attacks. For example, where somebody….sort of a bait and switch kind of thing. Somebody gives you the impression that something is really important, it's legit. And then you click on it, and, it unfortunately downloads a program on your computer to access a key logger that tracks all your keystrokes. So, how should companies respond?

I think again, you need to build that internal awareness. You need to educate employees to understand what a legit email looks like. Don't click on the wrong thing. Simple things like understanding, eavesdropping and on what that means to your business. Or understanding or recognizing a distributed denial of service attack, what does that look like? When you go into the airport, for example, and you have a company device, don't just jump into the free WiFi because it's free. Nothing is quite free. So, simple things like that, or shoulder surfing – somebody stands right behind you and they're watching and they're looking at things that you're doing. So, very simple, basic practices. They go a long way in not only drawing awareness and attention to the importance of cybersecurity, but they also help you develop the knowledge that you need, because once you become inquisitive because you're aware of something, what you do then is go and try to educate yourself. So, um, social engineering attacks are on the rise and we're going to see more and more of that.

A phishing attack would be a good example. You get an email that, um, the president of the organization would like you to click on this policy and read it. You all know that the president never emails anything about policies. In fact, you know that should come from a different unit. Why would you click on that? Or you move, you move your mouse and you hover your mouse over the email address bar and you see a bunch of gibberish, you know, that no company will do that. So, it’s been masked in a way that the average person wouldn't easily recognize that.

So, those are basic things that you want to teach people – something as simple as creating strong passwords. For example, um, not using your pet's name and things like that. We talk about those things, and people don't realize it. And even when you use, um, the, you know, characters like the dollar sign, the at sign and all that on your keyboard, make sure you don't pick characters right next to each other, you know, on the keyboard because they, they, um, their software, the program that tries to break your password obviously goes in a particular order. And once you break that order, it's a little bit tough for that program.

So, we teach basic things like that. I think organizations need to be aware of that. Start with the basics. Let's go back to the basics, understand that things that we need to be aware of, and then build some simple training and awareness around that. Every organization should, at least every quarter, get their employees to re-certify in a simple, whether that's 10 questions or 20 questions or whatever it is, security awareness campaign. They have to re-certify as part of your security awareness campaign, and make sure everybody's on the same page. If it's a company where there's a high turnover, the way you make employees sign nondisclosure agreements? Make them take the training exactly the same way, so that way, they’re all on the same page in terms of what is really important to them. I think that too many times we're all caught up with the business of the day that we forget to take care of the basics. Yet the basics, unfortunately, can take over the core of the business and that's where cybersecurity becomes a real issue.


MF: Thank you for your time. This is Marilyn Finfrock and Dr .Andy Igonor. To learn more about us, visit Goodbye, until next time


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