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Exploring the opportunities and challenges presented by data protection for today's CIOs
By Ian West, Director of Digital Information Services at Project One and member of the GDPR Institut's Advisory Committee
As one of the most powerful brands in the world, Facebook had the opportunity to lead by example, to show other companies the right way to approach privacy and respect their user’s data. Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, Facebook chose not to and is now mired in a scandal, the effect of which has caused ripples across the world. The trust that consumers placed in companies, when sharing their personal information and data, has been broken, and with EU data protection regulations being overhauled with the implementation of GDPR, businesses need leaders who can navigate these uncharted territories.
Here, I explore the opportunities and challenges for CIOs in managing how their organisations deal with data and why; rather than being regarded as a burden, data should be regarded as a strategic asset.
Why should CIOs care about data?
The role of the CIO is to own, secure and master information to ensure that the service their business offers lives up to the brand promise and values. After all, what is a business without its customers?
Look at TalkTalk for example. A cyber-attack in October 2015 led to the personal information of over 150,000 customers, including sensitive financial data, being accessed by hackers. TalkTalk had failed to take basic steps to implement cyber security measures and protect their customers’ data. The result? The company was hit with a record £400,000 fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office. Dido Harding, the CEO at the time, addressed the situation head on in a BBC Newsnight interview within 24 hours of the attack. Unlike some other companies, TalkTalk chose to be open and honest about what had happened, acknowledging the responsibility to look after their customers, admitting the failure in the IT function and warning about the risks of their data being compromised.
By driving a more digital, data driven approach, CIOs can align IT and the business with the needs of the millennial generation and future proof their customer base
To futureproof the success of their business, CIOs will need to eat, sleep and breathe data, otherwise, customers will simply go elsewhere – not to mention the hefty fines that can be imposed under the new GDPR regulations. Data is integral to business success. To put it simply, a CIO should care about data the way a Chief Financial Officer cares about cash.
The challenge is that data is often seen as a ‘hot potato’ problem and responsibility is often passed between different departments, without any internal infrastructure or cohesive strategy to funnel it through the business. In the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal and the implementation of GDPR, CIOs will now be required to take ownership of the data handling process within their company, or risk facing the consequences.
So now we’ve set the scene, how can CIOs embrace data with the care and attention it deserves and what rewards can they expect to reap?
Bridging the generational gap
Over the last decade, the customer journey has been transformed by digital and technological developments and, as a result, businesses have had to adapt to the monumental shift in consumer attitudes and behaviours. The millennial generation demands a digital offering that puts information, and with it, security, at the centre of its operations. By driving a more digital, data driven approach, CIOs can align IT and the businesses with the needs of the millennial generation and future proof their customer base.
However, the reality is that many of today’s CIOsgrew up in an era when consumers did not have the freedom of choice available that the internet and e-commerce now allows. Younger generations who grew up with the internet and understand the value of data in the digital landscape, are the driving force behind changing and modernising the role of the CIO when it comes to information and data. It’s up to today’s CIOs to steer their organisations through the complexity and challenges that data protection can present, and restore consumer’s trust in how businesses, big and small, manage their personal information.
Data is fast becoming a critical metric for business success and, as such, CIOs must take responsibility for ensuring that IT and the business keeps up with the rapidly evolving digital marketplace. While for some this may seem like a daunting prospect, there are some inspiring examples of businesses who are getting it right. Amazon, Google, Intel, GE and Mercedes Benz represent a selection of the companies who are future-proofing their success by making data a priority and finding intelligent, compliant ways to use it as an asset.
Project One developed its Digital Information Service, to help businesses achieve their digital goals, and manage the psychological shift from seeing data as problematic to a valuable strategic asset. Thus,enabling them to embrace the opportunities and challenges that safe, secure and responsible data management presents.