GDPR compliance: Reasons to be cheerful

In a series of blog posts, the ‘Coach’ offers recommendations on how to get businesses into shape so they can thrive in the new data era.

Vice President and Chief Data Officer, Analytics, IBM

When you hire a life coach, feelings can often be mixed. Someone is helping you on the way to improving yourself, but that path is one you have to walk, and it can be tough.

Feelings can be much the same about the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which some organizations view as a burden. But can’t it make your business fitter and healthier? 

For years, organizational leaders have been aware that the business value extracted from their piles of customer data can come with significant risk and cost. The theft of personal data and potential customer alienation could be a single misstep away. Then there’s the organizational complexity of data management as businesses generate and capture more and more data.

One of the objectives of the GDPR is to help reduce this complexity for businesses and customers alike, but preparing for compliance with the GDPR is widely viewed as a challenge.

The GDPR demands that businesses be accountable and transparent in their use of personal data. It also demands security levels that are appropriate to the sensitivity of that data. It requires businesses to demonstrate compliance and provide clear opportunities for individuals to consent to use of their data. 

However, by simplifying data landscapes, customer information can be better secured and harnessed more effectively. In this light, the GDPR can be seen as a chance to promote confidence from customers, which could help deepen relationships with them and potentially lead to a better and more competitive service. That’s why the GDPR should be welcomed as an opportunity.

The coach's take: “the GDPR sets a new standard for data guardianship giving you the opportunity to build your reputation as a brand that can be trusted with data.”

The question isn’t whether you should allocate resources to protecting data and the rights of customers, but how well you can do it. Herein lie the reasons to be cheerful.

GDPR is a win-win

For years, organizations have struggled with the loss of productivity associated with irrelevant and old data. Meanwhile, terabytes of unstructured, fragmented customer information in emails, legacy databases, recorded customer support calls and a myriad of spreadsheets has long represented a management challenge for IT departments.

When everything is working well, a clean, consent-based database can represent an advantage from a sales, marketing and customer care perspective.

It helps ensure only opted-in prospects receive regular communications. These are customers who want to engage and have an interest in sharing their data with an organization in return for the convenience of using a product or service.

Clean, secure databases give clearer insights, offer better segmentation opportunities, and allow for more effective, personalized offers and communications. This can lead to deeper analysis per segmented group, helping marketing teams better understand the nuances that drive responses. It’s a virtuous circle. 

What’s more, an up-to-date and well-organized database gives you the chance to examine, analyze and observe where improvements can be made to your business through efficiency, opportunity and innovation.

The Coach’s take: “A data breach that revealed customers’ locations, behavior patterns or lifestyle choices could be devastating for all involved.” 

Perhaps the most significant reason to rethink data management and data-based customer relationships is the new AI-driven engagement economy. Intelligent devices and systems now offer the chance to influence micro-moments throughout the lives of consumers. In short: the better your data, the better your foundation for AI. 

The future is bright

The GDPR can help move businesses towards more caring, respectful and enduring relationships with customers. A leaner, more straightforward data landscape can help you gain genuine insights and could reduce IT costs.

The early days of the GDPR will be full of challenges, but if you know where to find help, it should prove a period full of opportunity, too.

IBM has been on its own GDPR readiness journey – read more about that here – and is well-positioned to help with your long-term data vision and GDPR compliance efforts.

 For more from the “coach,” stay tuned for the rest of this GDPR blog series.

Notice: Clients are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with various laws and regulations, including the European Union General Data Protection Regulation. Clients are solely responsible for obtaining advice of competent legal counsel as to the identification and interpretation of any relevant laws and regulations that may affect the clients’ business and any actions the clients may need to take to comply with such laws and regulations. The products, services, and other capabilities described herein are not suitable for all client situations and may have restricted availability. IBM does not provide legal, accounting or auditing advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that clients are in compliance with any law or regulation.