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How GDPR can drive positive changes for data-driven businesses

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Businesses should view GDPR in a positive light

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a major shift in the way businesses must handle personal data. Giving consumers better control of how their data is used means there are serious obligations for businesses and punishment for those that violate regulations, including heavy fines. This includes multinationals that have a large presence in Europe.

Data is a premium commodity that businesses can generate unprecedented value from. Data is knowledge and the overhead needed to store data has decreased, while we can process data with more speed and efficiency than ever before. Data has been described as the “new currency” and with technology, it’s truly transformative.

Businesses of all sizes are becoming more data-driven. Information that we hold about our products, customers, services and employees allow us to understand ourselves and our place in the world.

Organisations in all industries are looking at access to real-time data, which can increase their levels of productivity and efficiency. In an industry such as manufacturing, data is central to the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. It offers digital transformation possibilities and potential in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

But with GDPR, businesses have a responsibility to in treat data with the value it deserves. And there’s no doubt that it hasn’t been an easy transition for businesses throughout Europe and across the world. The good news, though, is that compliance with data privacy and protection is a strong driver for positive change in a business.

GDPR can drive positive business change in three important areas – personal data, cloud technology and advanced technology adoption.

1. Management of personal data is a priority

The advent of fines for violating GDPR means data compliance has become a critical business priority. Businesses need to get their operations in order knowing what, how and how much personal data they have, where it is, and who has access to it. They must also ensure that people are making the right decisions about how data should be controlled and processed.

2. Cloud services can accelerate implementation

With GDPR, businesses are looking with interest at technology implementations involving cloud-service partners, which may have the expertise in compliance and security that can help a business become GDPR-compliant. The right partner can help businesses through a maze of complexities and regulations, offering services such as compliance audits, as well as knowledge and training.

3. Advanced technologies will enable businesses and consumers

Businesses are looking at AI and machine learning to support their GDPR compliance strategies. For example, it could help businesses implement seamless processes for people to revoke consent, as well as interpret regulations and how they concretely affect the business. AI has already been used widely in cybersecurity, as it can detect data breaches and fraud.

The fact is that many businesses lack fundamental data-processing abilities. They’re not clear how to discover or classify data, or even know the right ways to establish governance. Some also don’t have proper security. GDPR has helped businesses to understand opportunities for management of customer data while supporting compliance requirements. We must treat data with value and care.

For a data-driven business, it’s important to use data with care

Treating data with care

We’re in an age where the value of data has increased exponentially because we have technology to make better use of it than we have ever done before.

We use data to guide us. At Sage for example, we leverage behavioural data to see how customers are using our products, which drive some of the user interface and customer experience decisions we make. In recruitment, data is used to target candidates for the right kinds of roles. And in HR, we look at data that shows what’s driving colleagues and what’s affecting them.

Looking ahead, AI technologies such as deep learning and natural language processing (NLP) will offer us new ways to take advantage of information, allowing business users to ask questions of their data in a way that makes sense to them. We can identify patterns in data through AI in much more efficient ways than humans do, allowing for more valuable insight.

Right people and culture

With GDPR, many businesses are now training colleagues on the importance and value of data. We must remember that when it comes to a data breach, it’s often human error, rather than technology, that causes problems. Getting a grip on data is more than recruitment – it’s culture change – and needs to start from the top.

Yet having the right people in place with data skills is crucial. It helps businesses differentiate themselves, understand customer touch points, and increase profitability and efficiency. Although much has been made of a shortage when it comes to data-skilled talent, in my own experience it’s more about people with the right business data skills now being at a premium.

There’s strong competition among businesses to win the best talent. This means jobs can be hard to fill – data science and analytics jobs are often multidisciplinary and generally require an ability to link analytics to business value. The technology and analytical skills you need vary widely but soft skills such as communication, teamwork and creative are still extremely important.

There’s a generation of potential data scientists and analysts who can be trained in the tools you need in bringing sources together and drawing the insights businesses need. We have young people born into a time where they have cloud technology in their hands, and there’s increasing numbers of degrees and programmes available to help students know what they need in the world of business.

Businesses of all sizes need to be thinking very seriously about their recruitment strategies when it comes to data. This could involve possible partnerships made with universities and research institutions – or setting up hackathons to attract individuals who love building things and taking them apart.

Instead of treating GDPR as a barrier, let’s use it as a driver for positive change. Let’s love and value the data, making our businesses the best they can be.

Implementing GDPR: Lessons learned from UK businesses

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