In an unprecedented year, PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) will host its 2020 Community Meetings online, as virtual events, for the first time in the Council’s history. The annual North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific Community Meetings offer an opportunity to bring the PCI SSC community together to network with colleagues, share regional insights, and hear important Council updates.
In this interview with Executive Director Lance J. Johnson, we discuss what attendees can expect this year, the key content that will be addressed, and the value of holding these meetings, even in a virtual environment.
In lieu of face-to-face meetings, what can attendees expect in this new virtual environment?
Lance Johnson: In many ways, the virtual environment expands the value of the content for all participants. There will be all the familiar components we have grown accustomed to including various presentations; opportunities to network with colleagues, brand representatives and Council staff; and the opportunity to meet vendors. I am excited about what this new format gives to the community. While we do lose some elements by not being there physically, we gain even more such as immediate availability of recorded material and simpler access to those attending. I predict everyone will be surprised at how intimate and personal it feels.
While face-to-face meetings are always preferred when it comes to doing business, what are some of the potential benefits of doing business online this year?
Lance Johnson: Simply put, the benefit of an online event is that it gives us flexibility and an expanded reach. When we meet in-person, we are always limited by the time it takes to travel and the need to fill the meeting schedules. Now we can be on two continents, on the same day, for different meetings. There will always be a place for the in-person meeting, but what we have learned is that we can do so much more when we use the tools and platforms we have in order to extend our reach.
Let’s talk about the registration numbers you’re seeing. What do these numbers tell us in advance of the Community Meetings?
Lance Johnson: This is a very pleasant surprise for us. Registrations are about equal to or, in some cases, have exceeded that of previous in-person Community Meetings. There is evidence from recent Council events that registration may continue to climb and exceed what we would normally expect. Part of the explanation for those numbers is that we can accommodate a much larger audience online and offer easier access. But it also indicates that we are giving the community what it has asked for: information and insight into what the Council is doing, and how to effectively protect payments.
In your opinion, what factors will constitute a successful Community Meeting this year?
Lance Johnson: The Community Meetings represent a significant opportunity for us to achieve one of our strategic objectives, which is to increase industry participation and knowledge. The three Community Meetings bring the Council together with a broad range of stakeholders, vendors, assessors, practitioners, and other experts in their areas, to meet, discuss and learn from each other. The goal remains the same even if the environment has changed. If we are accomplishing this – if we have attendance, participation, and a chance to learn something new, then that constitutes a success to me.
What is some key content that attendees shouldn’t miss?
Lance Johnson: We have planned a broad range of presentations, over the course of the event, that address the day to day realities of our industry. While the topics are not necessarily surprising, the way that content is presented will be unique. Our content will be delivered from guest speakers all around the world, which truly represents our global nature. We’ll be covering everything from cloud initiatives, industry threats, mobile payment trends, software development best practices and so much more. We’ll hear from experts and have panel discussions on topics that are relevant to everyone. I am sure that no one will be surprised that we will be talking a lot about PCI DSS v4.0. And, of course, we’ll address the challenges that the industry has faced with the global pandemic. It remains one of the most significant challenges the community has endured and will continue to endure for the foreseeable future.
Why should people attend these virtual Community Meetings this year? What is the value?
Lance Johnson: The value of these meetings is really tied to participation. Those who have attended a Community Meeting in the past will see many similarities to previous Community Meetings in terms of content and format. We have a platform that allows for active participation with colleagues. Attendees will get the latest information on new standards and programs. They will have the ability to discuss issues and solutions with others. However, some features will be new such as navigating the virtual platform and interacting in ways we are just beginning to explore. One added benefit is that attendees will get faster and ongoing access to presentations, which is ideal. There is also a large population of people who, for one reason or another, have not had access to these events in the past. Those are the people who will get the biggest value, as they get this opportunity to interact with the Council in ways they’ve not done so before. We’ve extended the boundary of what we are able to do and the number of people we are able to reach.
If virtual Community Meetings receive positive feedback, would you consider keeping virtual aspects for future Community Meetings, even if travel and social gatherings resume? In other words, could this set a precedence for the future?
Lance Johnson: The simple answer is yes. These virtual events have already proven their worth in increasing our reach and flexibility. I can see our traditional in-person format evolving to utilize some of these virtual tools and co-existing with new events based exclusively on this new format.
For those considering attending a Community Meeting, what would you tell them?
Lance Johnson: Please attend. Join in. Help us help you. The Council was founded on the goal of improving payment data security. We do this by creating and maintaining standards and supporting programs, but it is really about the stakeholders. The community of practitioners, participants, and assessors, learning from us and from each other, is how we all succeed. The Community Meetings are an integral and important part of that.