GDPR is intimidating – that much is undeniable. For businesses with reams of personal consumer data, acquired over many years and through many means, GDPR throws up a formidable compliance challenge. And in less than a year’s time, companies must face the music.
Compliance is demanded by all businesses handling EU citizens’ data by 25 May 2018. You’ll be familiar with the meetings, the plans, the audits, the research, and the slightly frazzled look on the faces of your company’s GDPR task force as that date looms ahead. Behind all that noise, though, is opportunity.
For all the work it raises, GDPR also presents a wealth of business benefits. Here, we highlight the positive elements of GDPR, and explain why the austere regulations are actually rich with reward.
A clean house
For most businesses, it’s fair to say that data is a chaotic area. In fact, it is estimated that 60-80% of the data that organisations are storing is redundant, obsolete and trivial (ROT). GDPR is a prime opportunity to audit, review and organise your company data – creating a clean house for the information you store.
GDPR forces businesses to better understand their data. It requires a comprehensive revision of data handling procedures, and companies must map their data flows and restructure accordingly. Of course, that task is an onus. It’s also an opportunity to categorise, clarify and correct. GDPR forces you to address your data problems, and in doing so allows you to become more informed, and more efficient.
“However fast regulation moves, technology moves faster. Especially as far as data is concerned.”
A simple, unified approach
Prior to the GDPR, companies had to work with diverging laws from 28 EU member countries. In each member state that they were established in, businesses had to register with a data protection authority and follow a different set of regulations.
GDPR puts an end to this patchwork of rules. Now, there is a single, streamlined set of rules for all companies who handle the data of EU citizens. Yes, businesses may need to rewrite their privacy policies and put new procedures in place. When there is uniform legislation in place, however, it becomes far easier to understand requirements and ensure compliance.
“The GDPR is at root a modernisation of the law.”
A secure environment
Security is a key aspect of the GDPR. Under its regulations, businesses are charged with storing the consumer data they handle safely, in accordance with legally set security standards. And, since GDPR creates consistency across fluctuating data protection rules, it’s easier for businesses to comply.
The new security legislation is strict, granted. It’s an onus for business, but one that is hugely beneficial in the long-term. With tightened security measures in place, consumer trust can only increase while the threat of breaches can only decrease. In turn, this limits the likelihood of a damaged brand reputation.
"It’s about moving away from seeing the law as a box ticking exercise, and instead to work on a framework that can be used to build a culture of privacy that pervades an entire organisation."
An invitation to innovate
GDPR introduces (relatively) new concepts such as privacy by design, profiling and data portability. These changes breed the opportunity to innovate. Rather than drowning in the depth of imminent legislation, businesses can take the time to look outwards and invest in transformation.
Now is the time for companies to take new approaches to data problems and drive new paradigms for best practices. GDPR throws down the gauntlet for businesses. Who will lead the way in “designing-in” flexibility? Who will find winning ways to modernise data platforms? Businesses that tackle GDPR openly and creatively will quickly excel in a data-led economy.
"Having the right mindset towards data protection helps to future proof a business."
A commitment to the customer
Data breaches have been big news in recent years. Many large companies have had major slip-ups, and customers have become increasingly concerned over who has their data and how it is being used. GDPR creates an opportunity for businesses to regain that lost trust.
Under new GDPR rules, consumers are firmly in control when it comes to their personal data. They’re no longer unsure of how, why, or where it is being used, and are protected by tighter consent laws and a ‘right to be forgotten’. By committing to clarity, businesses can win back consumer confidence and move forward with a stronger foundation of trust.
"We need to move from a mindset of compliance to a mindset of commitment: commitment to managing data sensitively and ethically."
An invested audience
GDPR makes it compulsory for businesses to obtain valid consent (or another lawful basis) to use and store the data of EU citizens. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. As restrictive as this may sound initially, it means that businesses will end up with a high-value database of invested customers.
Actively giving consent indicates, at the very least, interest in your company. Consumers are choosing to allow you to use their data, which implies a favourable outlook and a certain degree of goodwill towards your brand. From this angle, GDPR is a golden ticket for engagement.
"Isn’t having customers’ trust a cornerstone to good business? Isn’t that intangible relationship with customers: loyalty, trust, repeat customers, something most companies want?"
Still threatened by GDPR? Doubtless, preparing for GDPR compliance is a daunting challenge for most of us. It won’t be easy, and it probably won’t be without its headaches. But all that considered, GDPR can become a key competitive differentiator for businesses.
Just like the millennium bug that went before it, businesses are scared and uncertain of what lies ahead. They’re counting down the days to a date in the not so distant future – a date perceived as portentous and potentially damaging. And just like the millennium bug, businesses will doubtless use GDPR as an opportunity to modernise their systems and embrace the future. We, for one, look forward to the benefits ahead.