Most people will agree that technology has and continues to revolutionize the business world, making companies of all sizes and in all industries and sectors more efficient.  But family businesses often comprise multiple generations with differing perspectives and concerns which can put technology at the bottom of a long list of financial priorities.

For GNT Solutions’ Eric Johnson, easing the fears of older business leaders while balancing the goals of incoming generations is a common feat for the IT company.  “While generational differences can be stereotypical, they can also be true to life with some of our clients,” commented Johnson.  He finds that the older generation is sometimes more trusting when it comes to electronic communication.  In fact, a 75-year-old GNT client received an email purportedly coming from an international vendor instructing him to make future payments to a ‘new’ bank account.  Without verifying the request, he sent $50,000 to the fraudulent account with no hope of ever recovering the money. There are no technical systems that can prevent 100% of these types of requests from reaching their intended recipient; the only hope is to have employees trained for how to respond.

Conversely, Johnson’s younger clients tend to be more impulsive and quicker to act.  Upon receipt of an email requesting a response to a survey, a 25-year-old clicks the attachment that turns out to be ransomware that encrypts every single file that employee has access to on the company’s server.  What are her options?  Either pay the ransom and trust the hacker to return access to the files or rely on a sound IT unit to restore the backup.

The reality is that any company with employees and computers is at risk of a breach.  Which is why it is important to understand generational biases to make appropriate decisions and set proper security measures in place.

“We have seen situations where more senior members of an organization are resistant to technological change and comfortable with doing things the way they have always done them.  At the end of their careers, they are less interested in making a major financial investment and opt to maintain the status quo.  We find the younger generations to be very much pro technology.  Sometimes to a fault,” continued Johnson.

When senior leaders tend to underinvest in technology and up-and-comers are willing to overinvest to be on the bleeding edge, Johnson finds that, like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.  As a managed IT service provider for small and midsize businesses, Johnson and the team at GNT Solutions are experts at finding appropriate solutions for their clients.

If leadership is collectively on board with making some technological advances in infrastructure, Johnson advises a ‘blue sky’ meeting between the IT and operations teams to determine a starting point.  Rather than from a perspective of cost, start with assessing needs by asking questions such as:

  • How can technology make my business better and more efficient?
  • Day to day, what are our ‘pain points’?
  • How much data do we need to protect?  And for how long?
  • If something happens, how long can we afford to be without our systems? And how much data can we afford to lose? (e.g., one hour, one day, one week?)

If information security is the priority, trained and alert employees are a valuable information security ‘layer’ protecting your company.  “You can establish as many electronic policies as you like, but they’re absolutely no good if not trained and tested on,” advised Johnson.  Start with educating employees on the latest scams and tactics, then testing them with emails that contain suspicious or tempting content

When considering your business’ next technological step, be sure to understand the risks:

  • Financial – Monetary transfers including wires and ACH all have inherent risk and can lead to financial loss.
  • Operational – If your files become completely inaccessible because of ransomware, your business can potentially grind to a halt.
  • Reputational – Hackers are experts at accessing email systems and distributing communications purportedly from someone in a leadership role, leaving the business vulnerable and appearing unprofessional and irresponsible to employees and customers.