GDPR is an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation
The arrival of GDPR is now just a few months away. Millions of organisations across the UK are already stepping up their efforts to ensure compliance as we edge closer to 25th May 2018. But rather than looking at it as a mere compliance challenge, business leaders should instead see the General Data Protection Regulation as a positive opportunity for digital transformation. To that end, we’ve written a plain-English guide to help businesses reap the benefits of GDPR-readiness.
A new regime
The biggest overhaul in data protection law in over 25 years, GDPR replaces the regulations in the 1998 Data Protection Act. Under the new rules, organisations will be required to abide by stricter legal guidelines on how they process personal data. At its most basic level, GDPR will require companies to provide consumers with clear and transparent guidelines about how their personal data will be stored and used, whilst also granting them quick and easy access to this data. As a result, these regulations will effectively democratise data privacy for consumers. Businesses will need to obtain explicit consent before storing or processing personal data.
These new rules come after various high-profile cases across the continent where data privacy was compromised. For example, Facebook received a €1.2 million fine from Spanish courts earlier this year for violations of data security – they used data on religious beliefs, ideologies and preferences, illegally, for advertising purposes. Although this may seem like a hefty price to pay, the cost is negligible for a company the size of Facebook. However, the penalties that companies could receive for failure to comply with GDPR could be much higher – up to €20m or 4% of their annual turnover, whichever is higher. This may seem like a daunting prospect, but rather than focus on the penalties for non-compliance (which will be meted out by the ICO re-actively, not pro-actively) most companies should see GDPR as a positive opportunity for change. After all, the rules set out by GDPR may finally give them the impetus they need to modernise their systems and improve their data protection policies.
An evolution of data protection regulation
There’s no denying the short-term effort that will be needed to achieve compliance with GDPR. However, the work required will largely depend on the extent to which an organisation has already met existing data protection standards.For some companies, this is good news – but unfortunately, many of the UK’s least digitally mature organisations still fall foul of the Data Protection Act. For these businesses, the investment needed to comply with GDPR regulations should simply be viewed as deferred costs from work that should have been done to improve data security years ago. Seen in this light, GDPR is not a revolution, but an evolution.
The digital landscape is always evolving, GDPR is simply the latest development. With digital transformation on the agenda for many businesses, GDPR is a great opportunity to bring a company’s systems out of the dial-up era and into the cloud-computing age. It could even pave the way for other progressive technologies like chatbots and AI. This kind of future-gazing is necessary to make your response to GDPR a success. Those who can look beyond the short-term pain of compliance will be able to see the long-term benefits that GDPR will bring to businesses.
An opportunity to build trust
The average consumer was once blissfully ignorant about how businesses were using their personal information. But now they’re now savvier than ever when it comes to data storage and usage. For businesses then, there is a certain amount of consumer trust that needs to be gained and maintained, and GDPR is a great place to start. The companies that can embrace this new legislation and show a willingness to comply will send a clear message that they really care about protecting the data privacy rights of their consumers. Data protection can be seen as an act of corporate social responsibility as much as a legal requirement. As a result, businesses can use compliance with GDPR to boost their public image and win the trust – and loyalty – of their customers.
Focusing on positive outcomes like these is important, as GDPR compliance is an inevitability that all businesses will need to face. Any changes that are required will need to be incorporated into everyday processes and acknowledged and implemented by all employees, from senior management to the most junior members of staff. Compliance with GDPR will no doubt require a fair amount of digital heavy lifting and a clear company strategy, but businesses should not ignore the many opportunities created by the new regulations. It may seem counter-intuitive, but those with the most work to do actually stand to make the greatest gains. By embracing this change with a positive attitude, and a focus on improving current systems, these organisations can reap rewards far beyond mere compliance.