In today’s information economy, data has become the world’s newest digital currency
Every minute, there are roughly 450,000 tweets, 500,000 comments posted on Facebook, 999,000 Tinder swipes, 3.6 million Google searches, 4.1 million YouTube videos watched and 103 million spam emails. Add to this, reams of customer data, employee data, medical data, government data, financial data – and the list goes on and on.
According to IDC Research, total worldwide data will swell to 163 zettabytes by 2025, more than 10 times the amount that exists today.
With scrutiny around how social media networks are handling users’ data, recent headlines around data breaches faced by UK businesses, and the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, data growth, data protection and digital privacy have come centre stage.
Meanwhile, advancements in business intelligence have given organisations the ability to pull insights from this data that are so rich they are actually predictive in nature. The result: businesses can stay a step ahead of customer expectations and needs, versus merely reacting to them.
Collecting, storing and analysing this data inspires innovation and help companies gain advantages in the market that they never thought possible. At the same time, organisations need to be prepared to make strategic choices around data collection, storage, analysis and the location of that data – and how it can be safeguarded against cyber-attacks or breaches.
With more data, comes more responsibility. Here are five steps organisations can take to ensure they have a sound data management strategy in place:
Map your data
‘What data do I have, and how sensitive is it?’ This is the first question a business should ask itself. To be able to answer this, the organisation must have a holistic approach to managing its data. This includes having complete visibility into data, as well as what information is stored, how it is used, who owns it, accesses it and how it needs to be treated from a compliance perspective.
This approach must include the ability to automatically classify large volumes of digital data, scanning and tagging it in a granular, intelligent manner to ensure that information is managed effectively and can be used on-demand.
Appoint a data manager
Whether it’s a data protection officer (DPO) or a director of information systems (DSI), appointing a person to manage data protection can be very beneficial for a company. The board should be able to rely on this individual to ensure they are making the right decisions when it comes to managing data. The DPO or DSIs tasks should include, for example, keeping a record of data processing, establishing the data protection strategy and reviewing compliance. In addition to ensuring protection, the DPO or DSI would be responsible for the introduction of technologies that can generate growth, and also review the possible implications of all technology that collects, stores or uses personal data.
Get buy-in from the board
Digital transformation is vital for any business that wants to not only survive, but also succeed. So decisions around technology and data should no longer be the sole responsibility of the IT team, but should become board-level discussions. When looking to implement a data management strategy, it’s imperative to get buy-in from the board to secure investment and commitment.
The GDPR has forged new communication and collaborations across IT and legal departments, and in order to continue to use data effectively and in a compliant way, collaboration across various different departments and IT must continue.
If data is the currency for organisations, it is the responsibility of each individual in the company. So instilling a culture of compliance among employees will prove the ultimate driver for long term change. Businesses must deploy new processes and policies including training, rewards and updated contracts in support of data management and protection to emphasise the role each employee plays in protecting their organisation’s data.
Making all employees trusted custodians of data will create a lasting impact as data hygiene and protection becomes a daily habit for everybody.
Measure the real-time impact of its data management strategy
Finally, companies must quantify the results of its data management strategy. By frequently re-evaluating the benefits and cost-efficiency of your strategy, organisations can record all actions taken and all improvements made. The results can then be weighed up in order to decide whether to continue in the same direction or change course. This approach not only saves time, but also reassures management teams and stakeholders that the data management strategy is worthwhile.
The new ways of collecting and analysing data, and the rise of social media, artificial intelligence and the internet of things (IoT), means that data management has become increasingly complex. There’s no uniform answer to how every organisation should manage and protect its data: for each different business, there are varied opportunities and obstacles. But prioritising data management, data protection, storage optimisation and governance in tandem with decisions on how that data will be used for commercial benefit, is critical. This mind set must come from the top and become embedded within the culture of an organisation.
About the Author
Jason Tooley is vice president, Northern Europe, Veritas Technologies. Veritas Technologies empowers businesses of all sizes to discover the truth in information—their most important digital asset. Eighty-six percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on Veritas today.