5 ways to take control of data in 2021

COVID-19 is transforming the way the economy works, guaranteeing that our data needs will also change and grow. Here's what that means for CIOs in the year ahead.

chess strategy strategic data binary game by santoelia getty images
santoelia / Getty Images

COVID-19 changed how economies, consumers, and the supply chain behave. All that change means that significant amounts of legacy data are no longer useful and, in many places, we are starting from ground zero. But for CIOs who are responsible for the infrastructures, platforms, and tools that manage and move data, essential data realities may not have changed, although their scope certainly has.

Due to the pivotal role technology is playing in transforming the working world amid the pandemic, CIOs are dealing with a tremendous amount of data movement, processing, storage, and security concerns. As CIOs look ahead to 2021, here are five tips for approaching their growing data responsibilities.     

Use AI to prevent data leaks & protect privacy

With more data processing and movement happening inside and on the edge of organizations, data leaks are an increasing risk and increasingly hard to identify. Some businesses are enlisting AI not only to scan for leaks but also to prevent them. The 2019 Gartner Security and Risk Survey showed that “over 40% of privacy compliance technology will rely on AI by 2023, up from 5% in 2019.”

Automated, AI-driven data leak prevention tools can proactively eliminate unwanted data leaks by tracking, limiting, and even blocking data access and sharing. In addition, AI-based data defenders can learn from prior and future malware attacks and data loss events. These lessons can be applied to new intrusions, helping identify risk, such as suspicious customer or employee behavior, and mitigating issues before any leaks can occur.

Prioritize identity and access management security

COVID-19 weakened IAM security for many organizations as the rapid move to remote and hybrid workforces has made identity and access protocols significantly more difficult to monitor and maintain. One way to improve safeguards and governance around privileged account access and orphaned accounts is to embrace single sign-on (SSO).

The workforce volatility of 2020 also underscores the importance of testing and assessing current multi-factor authentication (MFA) processes for vulnerabilities for 2021 and beyond. SSO can only work if MFA is at its best, and CIOs and their teams need to address and shore up any access-related vulnerabilities that bad actors or disgruntled employees could use to harm the business.

Reassess digital engagement data

Now that digital communication has become the primary method of engaging customers,  CIOs can help their organizations optimize digital engagement at every step. The value of digital engagements is that every step is logged and can be tracked. CIOs can select what metrics are important to them and create dashboards for tracking, assessing and sharing the success of an engagement.

CIOs need to work with their partners across the business to assess how data capture and analysis should evolve in order to keep pace with current market trends.  If outdated data models are being used to assess the customer journey, the business is losing competitive ground without even knowing it.

Consider the edge

2021 for many CIOs will be a time to consider adding more data processing and storage infrastructure to the edge. The question to ask when rethinking infrastructure architecture and considering migrations to the edge is this:  How much real-time data processing and rapid decision making will be needed to keep customers engaged and business competitive? The greater the demands are for rapid processing power and data analysis, the more likely it is that CIOs will need to add or increase edge computing capabilities. 

Evolve disaster recovery plans for data

2020 has felt like an ongoing stress test for business continuity and disaster recovery plans. As we head into 2021, factor in lessons learned and finetune plans to address any new or growing data risks. For example:

  • How much data loss can the business tolerate should another catastrophic event occur?
  • Do current disaster recovery plans account for growing data sharing and processing demands?
  • Where has remote work stressed the system and created any weaknesses or new needs?

Data integrity and security are essential to our ways of work and life, and every adversity underscores that precept.  While data needs may be challenging for CIOs in the year ahead, the lessons of COVID-19 will have prepared us well.  

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

Learn how leading CIOs are reinventing IT. Download CIO's new Think Tank report!