Trust at all levels of the economy have come under duress. Joseph Lim examines the core notion of trust and what can be done, especially in terms of technology, to ensure technology infrastructures live up to their expectations.
Trust is the cornerstone of a myriad of human and business relations. It forms the basis of all interactions between people and organisations. Shareholders and board members nominate and elect key corporate executives to lead businesses because they trust them to deliver on the greater good of stakeholders.
Businesses and consumers purchase products and services because they trust their partners to deliver on their promise. And this chain of relationships continue with trust being the cornerstone in relationships.
Within the Asian context, trust has always played an important role, a cornerstone, as it is the embodiment of relationships.
According to a 2010 University of Wollongong research paper on the subject of trust, findings states that deep trust (a word which translates into “xinren” in the Chinese language) is characterised by reciprocal help and emotional bonding. The paper suggests that trust is critical for doing business in China.
Hinting that the “western” definition of trust does not necessarily have the same meaning in the Chinese-cum-Asian cultural context, the connotation relating to trust implies competency, meeting expectations, goodwill and to a deeper level, necessitates a qualitative-connect.
Hence, one would be led to the conclusion that trust is all important from a global perspective, more so, within the Asian context.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that trust globally, has eroded over the past few years. Businesses from a variety of industries have sought to crawl back to regain trust from all those that matter.
Trust Barometer – Slippage of Trust
One of the more established, recurring studies in illustrating the descent of trust shows up the recently released 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer. The survey showed that while overall trust in – for example – the Singapore government “is still among the highest in the world”, this “is slipping” and has declined to 70%, compared with 76% in 2013.
The survey findings also showed that the erosion in Singapore’s trust in business was one of the biggest among the 27 countries, with a ten-point fall to 61%.
The Edelman Trust Barometer, now in its 15th year, measures trust around 16 attributes that are grouped into five areas: Integrity (eg are businesses practices ethical); Engagement (eg is there open communications between businesses and their customers); Products & services (eg is the company able to innovate new products and services); Purpose (eg is there a tangible commitment to improve the lives of the communities within which the business operates; and Operations (eg is the company recognized and ranked in this industry in which it operates).
As the annual Edelman Trust Barometer reflected, there are many levels of trust relationships, between government and people, between businesses and their customers, between business and their staff and the list goes on.
Among the many layers of trust, one of the links closest to the ground is the trust between businesses and customers. In this day and age, it would be simplistic to assume that trust is attained through the high level of rules and regulations in society as well as to the specific areas of business and industry.
It is true that the rules and regulations, especially governing industries like financial services, exist and yet, many institutions have skirted around this and collapsed. Even major companies in the indomitable insurance sector had to be saved at the height of the global financial crisis.
As one KPMG expert put it in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, “mutual trust between parties have a face and when they know each other’s backgrounds. The right interactions and interfaces contribute to that.”
The 9 Rules of Trust
This belief led this global accounting and auditing firm to draw up nine “trust rules”, the first being the necessity to make contact personal. Others include the need to define common goals, setting then right examples, building trust with sensible rules, sharing responsibility and trust and the reliance on informed trust and not blind trust.
In the KPMG white paper that arose out of a study, it found there is an overlap of these nine rules and they become the fundamental basis for creating more room for trust. There is a leadership element that is explicit in all these principles, the KPMG paper asserts.
The nine principles that form the basis of this trust are:
1. Make contact personal – The basis of this principle lies in the notion that greater depth in a relationship builds trust that can be applied at all levels of trust. After all, trust can grow when people know each other or at least willing to get to know each other.
2. Define common goals – Definition of common goals stimulates trust. Taking responsibility is only possible when there is clear communication about starting points, targets and expectations.
3. Set the right example – Good example leads to good conduct. Exemplary conduct is an important source of mutual expectations; it is a basis that others can rely and lean on.
4. Build trust with sensible rules – Working on a basis of trust calls for rules: an unequivocal set of agreements on how the trust relationship is worked out. Such agreements may not be a paper tiger but are preferable brought to life through lengthy and spirited discussions.
5. Share responsibility and trust – Trust is a default. It is there as long as the opposite is not proven. But that doesn’t mean that no action is needed to allow trust to grow and stimulate it. What needs to be done to structure it heavily depends on the situation. To structure this process, it is important to distinguish clearly between the ‘how’ and the ‘what”.
6. Stay on course and keep calm, when things go wrong – Whoever wants to manage by trust must overcome resistance. Whoever introduces a new concept must be prepared for cynical and disapproving reactions and a flood of practical rejections. Only a person who leads with consistency and stands firm can deal adequately with this.
7. Rely on informed trust, not on blind trust – Working on the basis of trust requires clear communication on how the trust relationship will be shaped and about sanctions in case that trust is violated. Disruptions of trust are, after all, sometime inevitable. As soon as trust is put to shame, sanctions follow, and it will be difficult to restore the trust relationship in the same way. To make this possible, a situation called informed trust must arise, in which both sides communication in all openness and honesty about dilemma and errors.
8. Be mild on understanding but crush abuse – Openness and dependability are the ideal ingredients for trust to grow. When rules are engaged for trust, is especially important that people can accost each other on things that do not go right.
9. Dare to experiment and learn from experience – It takes guts to allow new concepts and also to allow errors and keep adjusting the concept endlessly. There is no blueprint for what the end result will look like. This becomes the basis of flexible trust.
These guiding principles are all well and good within the general framework of work. Today, the non-human element called technology has become the cornerstone of that trust.
When an optical fibre network fails, it brings down with it other components, like an ATM network. The inability of a customer to conduct a transaction with his bank hurts the trust and reputation of the financial institution.
Similarly, when the backbone infrastructure of an internet service provider goes on fire, customers will emerge disgruntled. Information technology and telecommunications have become deeply fused and the lifeblood of modern enterprises. Developing and upgrading them is vital for maintaining a competitive edge, but involves ever-increasing investment and substantial risks.
By and large, in the Asian context, information technology infrastructure and systems have proliferated in a sporadic manner. Technologies have converged and connectivity has flourished. Where connectivity breaks down, trust moves proportionately with it.
A greater appreciation and understanding of new solutions relating to data centre infrastructure and service management would help restore such imbalances. When IT administrators have a holistic view of a data centre’s operations and performance, greater efficiency and intelligence gets embedded into the network.
Today, such technologies exist to enhance continued trust in IT infrastructure. To trust a system within this context requires a clear and holistic view of the infrastructure.
Executives need to understand what the current situation with regard to cabling and client configurations in distant subsidiaries? Do servers, storage media, cooling systems, and power supplies in the relevant data centers have any spare capacity? They need to grasp what exactly is the situation regarding physical and logical network resources? Which applications are being bundled to create services, and who uses these services within the organization?
In short, valid, detailed information is crucial for efficient service and infrastructure management as well as for service desks. This becomes the foundation of trust.
FNT Software has experience, expertise, and professional tools, processes, and structures that ensures that organisations can place trust in their technology infrastructure. Its offerings enable all key data about an organisation’s IT assets are combined in an integrated data model based on open interfaces to other systems, the API, and a special staging area.
A library containing more than 50,000 predefined, logically consistent elements facilitates data capture. The result is valid, detailed information about the organisation’s potential and greater certainty and efficiency in the operation of infrastructure and provision of services, all at the push of a button.
Trust is the glue which holds businesses and societies together. Without trust, there is no motivation and therefore no leadership. Without leadership we will not overcome challenges.
Trust has long been the foundation for the construction of commercial excellence and leadership.