As we hurtle towards May 25 and the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organizations holding data on EU citizens are busily making the changes necessary to make sure they’re compliant. A quick Google search of GDPR will present you with a vast amount of research tracking businesses’ readiness for the regulation. The findings vary, but most paint a gloomy picture. Findings from law firm Blake Morgan, for example, found that 9 out of 10 companies in their study had not made updates to their privacy policies; research from Alert Logic found only 5 percent felt they were compliant; and a study conducted by Technology Law Alliance announced in late 2017 found that less than a fifth of businesses surveyed were highly confident they’d meet compliance regulations on time.
The stakes are high for non-compliance, with maximum penalties standing at €20 million or 4 percent of annual turnover. As any business which has experienced a data breach will vouch, the negative impact sends shockwaves far beyond a fine. It can result in reputational damage; loss of earnings from cancelled contracts; and a loss of customer, partner and employee confidence. In fact, found the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, “stock price reactions are on average nine times larger than the financial penalties imposed by the regulators.” But just as the penalties go beyond compliance, the benefits of GDPR will go beyond compliance too.
Many of the processes required by the regulation are just good business practices, which organizations will have in place already. And for those parts of the regulation which require more effort and additional resources, the positive impact generated by compliance will quickly become evident and can even generate an ROI. Here’s why:
- You’ll accelerate your digital transformation program: Data is the driving force behind a successful digital transformation program. Understanding the flow of data around your organization, where it sits and how it’s used, and improving its accuracy and management will fast-track your digital transformation. It will help you leverage the changes presented by digital technologies.
- You’ll improve your business processes and productivity: instant access to cleansed, accurate, secure data will transform your business’ processes and drive productivity. Data can exist in hundreds of different silos across an organization, in structured and unstructured formats and in huge volumes. Understating what data you have and where it sits, then collating, ordering and managing this data will add value far beyond compliance. Collaboration will improve, processes will be streamlined and productivity increased, with less time spent searching for information.
- You’ll reduce inaccuracies and minimize errors: when your data is held in disparate records across an organization, it’s very hard to identify whether an entity is one and the same – for example, in the U.K., David Smith is the most common name. David Smith might be referenced within your records as D. Smith or Dave Smith, and you may have more than one customer sharing the same name. In the U.S., James Smith is the most common name, shared by over 31,000 people, so the same discrepancies apply. If the same individual is referred to in different ways, it results in duplicated records, incorrect information and an inability to deliver a good customer experience. GDPR compliance will reduce these kinds of errors, so your data becomes one of your biggest assets and your communications are laser-focused.
- You’ll empower employees and they’ll deliver an improved customer experience: by giving customer-facing employees access to the right data, you’ll empower them with the ability to deliver a great customer experience. They’ll have the right information to hand, and customers won’t have to repeat their information across different channels.
- You can develop a Single Customer View: when critical information isn’t connected, you miss opportunities. When customer data is connected across every part of your organization you’ll gain a comprehensive, 360-degree view that can help you identify relationships and uncover hidden opportunities. You’ll start to really understand your customers and how they’re likely to respond.
- It will improve your customer confidence: 84 percent of consumers in a study said that companies must prove themselves to be trustworthy. Consumer confidence in the U.K. is at its lowest in more than four years, and in the U.S. consumer confidence fell in December after a 17-year high so organizations need to take steps to raise this. Your customers’ personal data is their most precious asset, so if your organization invests in protecting and securing it, you’ll build their trust and they’re more likely to stay loyal.
- You’ll have access to deep intelligence: Every function across your business will benefit from accurate intelligence extracted from your data. Pulling together different data sets will help you understand the relationships between people, places and things, which will add an invaluable layer of insight to your organization. The confluence of these different data points and connections will reveal extra depths within your data, which are both meaningful and actionable.
- You’ll boost customer engagement: by standardizing, validating and verifying data you can build accurate, up-to-date profiles and deliver relevant, personalized digital and physical engagement. Campaigns are sharper, tightly-targeted and more successful.
- You can respond faster: removing the need to sift through silos of data means swift access to accurate data makes your organization agile and responsive, whether responding to internal queries, customer or regulatory requests, or reacting quickly to changes in market conditions to secure a competitive advantage.
- Forecasting and risk management will improve: with accurate, current data you can carry out extensive data mining and predictive analytics exercise, giving you the ability to make accurate data-driven decisions, and forecasts on future behavior and scenarios based on data, helping you plan the strategic direction of your business and minimize risk.
We need a change in mindset when it comes to the GDPR. Rather than looking at the negatives, businesses will benefit from looking at the opportunity it brings. By taking a closer look at the information they have to hand, and bringing it together, they can strengthen the relationships they have with their customers and create new revenue streams.