Unlocking value through data

Companies that can protect their customers’ privacy and understand where their data is located and how it is being used are gaining the competitive edge.

Organisations are becoming data driven. The International Data Corporation (IDC) has estimated the amount of the global data sphere subject to data analysis will grow by a factor of 50 to 5.2 zettabytes in 2025.

More and more companies have been hiring chief data officers (CDOs) to gain insight from this data. According to Gartner, by 2021, the office of the CDO will be seen as a mission-critical function comparable to IT, business operations, HR and finance in 75 percent of large enterprises.*

“Increasingly, enterprises are recognising the need for a senior individual with responsibility for managing the organisation’s data and protecting their customers’ privacy,” says Lola Bhadmus, vice president of marketing and communications at Io-Tahoe. “Additionally, more requirements to comply with global privacy regulations mean we will continue to see an upward trend.”

New regulations, such as the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force on the 25th May 2018, are also changing the way companies handle data. The regulations are designed to protect people’s personal data and organisations face stiff penalties if they are breached.

Under GDPR laws, companies face a fine of up to four per cent of global turnover or 20 million euros, whichever of both is highest. It is quite a jump from current penalties, as last year data protection fines to 54 UK companies only totalled £4.2 million, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The GDPR regulation is only just the beginning. “One would expect there will be more,” Bhadmus says. “There will always be regulatory requirements, so the ability for organizations to automatically discover data and sensitive information is a necessity.”

For example, in California, a digital privacy law was passed this year, which gives consumers the right to know what data companies collect about them and lets them have control of what the firm can share about them.  The UK’s latest version of its Data Protection Act took effect the same day as the GDPR, largely mirroring the EU law.

But this is providing firms with an opportunity to understand how and where data flows within their organisation, Bhadmus points out. By using newer technologies that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning, they can automatically discover, understand and catalog their data. Additionally, they can discover critical, implied and often unknown relationships among the data.

“Taking the steps towards effective data management practices can help build customer trust,” says Bhadmus. “If you can tell a customer their privacy is the organisation’s priority, it can be a competitive advantage. There is an element of transparency, which comes with embracing this new regulatory environment. Hopefully, it gives customers restored faith in how an organisation manages their data, and could become a unique selling point, ultimately helping them improve revenues.”

Accurate analysis of company information can also enable firms to make the high-level decisions needed to reach their business goals.  Not doing so, she says, could cost a company dearly.

“If the data quality is poor, then in theory, the analytics and insight built from a specific data point will be impacted,” says Bhadmus. “There is a potential significant cost to the company as a result.”

There are many benefits to be reaped for companies that understand their data landscape. In doing so, and complying with the new rules, companies stand the prospect of being better able to not only help protect their customers’ privacy, but to build trust, unlock value and gain that much desired competitive edge in the process.

*Gartner Press Release, Gartner Survey Finds Chief Data Officers Are Delivering Business Impact and Enabling Digital Transformation, December 6, 2017

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