Are you ready to take advantage of the GDPR opportunities?

By Jessica Douglas

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is not just a question of compliance, it’s a question of data responsibility. And if you’re looking at GDPR as a laborious requirement, you’re looking at it the wrong way. This is an opportunity for your organisation to strengthen its brand in the digital world.

But many organisations are not going to be ready to take advantage of all of the GDPR opportunities it presents. While 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies believe they are on track to comply with the GDPR, only 39 percent in the UK and 47 percent in the US have set up internal GDPR taskforces.

The GDPR is a much-needed update

The GDPR will provide EU data subjects with extended personal data rights for our new digital era. It’s a modernisation of the already enforced Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and a harmonisation of the rules across the European Union. This will allow individuals to digitally engage with organisations and remain confident that their digital identity is protected from misuse.

The 200 pages of articles and recitals revolve around a general principle: personal data should be used in ways which are lawful, fair and transparent. Some updates to GDPR from previous regulations extend the concept of personal data to include digital identity, like IP addresses, and data processors — those who process personal data on behalf of other businesses.

There’s no one tool to rule them all

So, how are you to prepare? Well, rushing about buying tools to solve the problem isn’t necessarily going to help, but making sure you have the tech capabilities to operate under the GDPR can. Due to limited change cycles and capacity in the run-up to enforcement, many businesses are, understandably, prioritising policy and process changes and minimising IT change.

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We suggest that our clients do not rely solely on policy and process change. Many of our clients are putting data management, governance, search and security tooling in place to help find, manage and further protect personal data in their businesses. By doing so, they will be better positioned to respond to customer and employee requests in relation new individual rights under the GDPR — and mitigate the risk exposure they have in relation to personal data they should not retain under the new regulations.

You can anticipate returns on investment

In the current digital environment, there is real market differentiation to be had for those who invest strategically in addressing their individuals’ new data rights effectively. With 55 percent of consumers avoiding giving personal data to companies they know to have been selling or misusing data without consumer consent, good personal data privacy and security practice are essential. And on top of that, over 41 percent of these consumers deliberately falsify their data to protect themselves in case of data breaches or companies misusing or selling their data.

Embrace the GDPR not just to comply

Embrace the GDPR to comply AND to help deepen your customer relationships and strengthen your position in the global economy. Doing only the bare minimum for compliance may work in the short run, but those who embrace the core GDPR principles — transparency, fairness and lawfulness — will be better able to withstand the negative and unanticipated consequences of digital, social and cybersecurity trends — and likely responses to these from lawmakers and regulators. Embrace the GDPR opportunities to help deepen your customer relationships and strengthen your position in the digital economy.

Now, with the mission to cherish the personal data of individuals in your enterprise, data management and governance are suddenly exciting. We’re seeing individual rights extended and organisations building a better data culture. Embracing the GDPR opportunities can help strengthen your customers’ trust, deepen customer relationships, and boost your brand perception. According to Teiss Co. UK, as many as 78 percent of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced by how companies handle their data. Ensuring lawfulness, fairness and transparency is at the core of what you do with personal data can only strengthen your position in the digital economy.

Finally, let’s consider potential results beyond the GDPR. If you’re able to understand your customers’, potential customers’ and employees’ personal data and have a solid strategy on what you’re doing with it, it puts you in great business position. Clear, sustained data strategy and governance makes for better business decision-making – and is more essential than ever for businesses reinventing themselves for the digital world with artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation and the internet of things.

The compliance risk is real, but in my view, we need to avoid looking at May 2018 as impending doom for your organization. See the GDPR as the digital foundation for the protection of individuals’ data. It’s a way to enhance your digital brand and grow market share with customers in an increasingly complex and competitive digital world. And it’s an opportunity for your business to do right by your customers, your people and the digital economy.

GDPR is live. Now what?

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Written By

Jessica Douglas

Executive Partner, IBM

Jessica leads IBM's market and client response to the General Data Protection Regulation (the GDPR) for the UK and Ireland. She and her team of privacy, security, cognitive analytics and customer experience experts are working with clients to address the GDPR imperative.Jessica…