The Road to Becoming GDPR Compliant Leads to Long-term Success

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Click to learn more about author Daniel Mintz.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), data has to be controlled, secured and deleteable or anonymized.  This means that all businesses housing large volumes of data are faced with a dilemma: figuring out which data to keep and ensuring that data that is kept is secure. As data storage has become accessible for all, nearly every business has accumulated data in large amounts, including even the smallest of organizations. Many businesses don’t know what data they’ve been storing over the years, let alone where data is saved and how it is being accessed. The data sprawl problem is real.

With the advent of GDPR, all this data poses a problem since much of it qualifies as personal data.  Many businesses are already facing scrutiny for compliance challenges, and GDPR just went into effect. Attempting to resolve this will not happen overnight, but those companies that are committed to making these changes will thrive with their customers and partners.

Why it Matters for GDPR

A data swamp, much like a physical swamp, is murky and messy. Within a data swamp, there is little visibility or understanding of what’s in the swamp or what’s happening below the surface. Because of this mess, businesses with data swamps are losing track of the data they are storing and how they’re storing it – a vital component of GDPR compliance.

GDPR aims to protect individuals by ensuring that businesses have an effective Data Governance program in place. This means that all the data that is collected, used, stored and disposed needs to accounted for and protected. Given the large data swamps many organizations have created, it’s not surprising they find themselves struggling to become GDPR compliant.

Tackling the Data Swamp

In order to begin tackling the issue that many companies face, organizations must first understand what data is needed and what data isn’t. They need to understand that data that isn’t vital to the business poses more of a risk than it provides benefits. GDPR is forcing businesses to dig deep and really see what data is going to help them solve problems, and what data should be eliminated. If it’s not being used, get rid of it!

Once organizations understand their data, GDPR then forces them to manage data in a way that keeps it clean and accessible for analysis. Employees can use clean data to tackle business problems. And organizations that comply by only keeping necessary data and replacing their data swamps with clean data lakes will find their data is far more valuable and actionable.

In this way, the introduction of GDPR has been positive. Businesses, now more than ever, are learning to get rid of data that doesn’t provide business value. Prior to compliance, irrelevant data was traditionally stored, left and sometimes even lost. GDPR has forced improved Data Governance processes and in return organizations are achieving compliance.

Securing Data

One of the challenges that Chief Privacy and Data Protection Officers are being presented with now that GDPR is in full effect is that many don’t know how many data fortresses exist, what data is inside each, how it is used and how many keys have been copied. Organizations that don’t tackle this challenge may fall victim to GDPR and its consequences, and face losing customer trust.

This problem requires a long-term solution that cannot be solved overnight. GDPR compliance is an ongoing process and a continuous shift in mindset where organizations now must approach their data by thinking about: ‘what business problem are we trying to solve with this data?’ In order for a business to be completely compliant, its data stewards must understand that compliance is a long-term process that they needs to be constantly addressed.  Changing the mentality from storing all data, to only storing the important data is the first step in the long process.

This is made harder because  many businesses are still using tools that continue to encourage data sprawl, even after CIOs and IT teams have cleaned up their data swamps. These tools may reproduce the non-compliance problems, which creates ongoing pain for all. To avoid that pain, GDPR-compliant businesses need to rely on reliable and advanced data analytics tools and experts to access and make sense of their data, ensuring it all provides business value.

Becoming GDPR compliant should be the goal of all organizations and by choosing a centralized and flexible data platform that leaves data in a database, without having employees extract it to analyze it, staff can interpret the data more efficiently and directly – accessing only the relevant data needed to solve problems.

Companies that don’t take GDPR seriously or see the benefits of it, might end up paying a hefty price for their lack of compliance, including losing trust, or suffering breaches in privacy and security. This might mean losing to their competitors and losing their value.

Organizations that are fully compliant and embrace GDPR, the importance of it and everything it represents for their users and customers, will build the strongest relationships and thrive. The ultimate goal of a businesses should be to build trust and a competitive advantage. Those that take on its values of privacy, trust and security will see the success in the long run.

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