Cloud services have now become the norm, providing SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS platforms for providing services. But this also means the collecting of data and the responsibility to protect it.
If 2018 was a year of frantic preparation for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), then 2019 quickly shaped up as a year of enforcement, as data protection authorities around Europe took action against transgressors.
Even for organisations that are confident about their GDPR compliance, there is still no room for complacency. As many have discovered, GDPR compliance wasn’t a one-time project to be achieved by the May 2018 deadline. It was just the first step.
GDPR compliance should be a routine aspect of day-to-day business, with the business processes that ensure ongoing compliance is fully operationalised to provide the scale needed across the enterprise. In practice, this means using data management technology to automate some of the work. Simply put, even almost two years on, for most organisations there’s a lot of work still to do.
But there is also opportunity.
Leveraging for faster innovation
At forward-thinking organisations, there’s a growing recognition that the tools and processes put in place to deliver GDPR compliance can also be leveraged for faster innovation, better business analytics and business intelligence, and more competitive customer experiences. What these organisations tend to have in common is a chief data officer (CDO) who is driving the data agenda, who understands the value of data as a key business asset and its potential for achieving competitive advantage, and who can provide strategic recommendations that align with legal requirements. These business leaders are tasked with bridging technology and business as well as building a data-driven culture, both of which require significant organisational change.
Many organisations still are yet to appoint an executive who fits that description. While GDPR was expected to be the trigger behind a surge in CDO appointments, it’s happening at a slower rate than many expected. In 2016, for example, Gartner predicted that, by the end of 2019, nine out of 10 large global organisations would have a CDO in place.
We’re not quite there yet. A recent study by NewVantage Partners, unveiled at the Chief Data Officer and Information Quality Symposium held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in in July, places the figure at 68%.
The report also finds that 45% of respondents believe that the CDO should sit on a company’s executive committee, while 38% believe they should report to that committee. Either way, both viewpoints indicate an increasing recognition that data is a key source of strategic value and should be granted a level of stewardship that reflects that value.
The financial services sector, in particular, looks to be a pioneer in this regard, particularly in Europe. Regardless of the size of the organisation, Europe’s CDOs in this industry are tackling tough issues. While challenger companies face a dearth of data, their ‘born digital’ status means they have a greater capacity to adopt new analytic technologies. In contrast, larger, more established providers have an abundance of data, but are less nimble as they wrestle with the complexity of deeply rooted processes and legacy systems.
CDOs are helping to build trust
Data is fundamental to organisations. But at a time when companies have access to more data about their customers than ever before, an important characteristic of ethical, trustworthy organisations is how responsibly they manage that data. Perceptive business leaders understand they don’t own that data — the customer does. With that in mind, they know they must work to win trust by demonstrably acting as good custodians of customer data, keeping it safe and using it only for permitted purposes.
With consumer sentiment in parallel with the demands of new and emerging data privacy laws, data governance and privacy are foundational to build and preserve customer trust and enhance customer experience and engagement. Regardless of industry, the work invested in response to the GDPR helps to build trust with customers. That could, in turn, lead to better all-round customer experiences.
Much of the work to meet the requirements for GDPR compliance, required businesses to have a joined-up view of an individual’s personal data across multiple internal systems and cloud databases, with many initially focusing on customers. An added benefit of this single view is the ability to better understand and build the relationship with individual customers — at scale. As customers express an interest in learning more about a company’s products and services, having a single view of customers in place makes it easier to tailor recommendations to their interests, helping to enrich the customer experience overall.
Looking ahead, it seems likely that as these initiatives continue to build customer trust, they may also act as a gateway to more sophisticated analytic approaches. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: the models that underpin these approaches need to be fed with clean, accurate, and governed data to enable optimal learning and deliver the most accurate and highest-value outcomes.
A simple yet overlooked practice, the focus must shift from outputs to inputs. Many of the foundations have already been laid, and as we enter into 2020, it really is time for CDOs to start building on them and reaping the results.
Jitesh Ghai is the SVP & GM, Data Quality, Security and Governance at Informatica.