Today’s connected business environment generates huge volumes of information every day. How well are you managing the challenges, opportunities, and risks associated with this data explosion?
There’s no question that companies today are overwhelmed with data. The real-time connectivity provided by digitalization has created a business environment where every enterprise is more closely linked to its customers, partners, and suppliers than ever before — creating a virtual data explosion. In a 2017 study, Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical, IDC predicted that global data will grow to 163 zettabytes (or one trillion gigabytes) by 2025.
While this huge volume of data provides a range of benefits — including more accurate market insights and improved responsiveness — it also brings a number of challenges.
The Spiraling Costs of Compliance
For many companies, one of the biggest downsides of Big Data is the necessity of complying with growing government and industry regulations. For example, European companies are required by the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to comply with strict privacy regulations when managing any data related to EU citizens. Failure to comply means penalties of up to 4 percent of a company’s annual worldwide turnover or 20 million Euro (whichever is greater). GDPR seems to have become the hallmark for a legislative set of rules that define the data stewardship responsibilities of organizations interacting with a “digital citizen”. Recently the State of California enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act with similar rights to know what personal information is collected, how it’s used, to opt-out, the right to be deleted, and the right of equal service and pricing. This act is enforced by the state’s Attorney General and caries civil penalties up to $7,500 per violation. These are just two relatively recent examples, but globally speaking, more municipalities, countries, and regions are placing the digital preservation and authorized use of personally identifiable information at the forefront of their respective legislative processes.
Beyond government bodies, certain industries, including finance and health care, face especially stringent oversight. Global banks are forced to work under more than 100 different regulations at any given time.
For the typical company, compliance means investing in new resources — such as IT and human capital — which can be prohibitively expensive. It also means aligning all nodes of the organization and centralizing all data, which can be both confusing and time-consuming. Some companies respond by over-implementing data control processes, which can stifle the organization’s innovation, productivity, and flexibility in an era where these are critical competitive assets.
The Escalating Threat of Cyber Exposure
But regulation isn’t the only challenge for Big Data. Equally important is the need for uncompromising data security. In the same report cited above, IDC estimated that only 20 percent of all data is being properly protected.
The statistics related to cybercrime are staggering. The US Department of Justice estimates that more than 4,000 ransomware attacks occur daily in the United States alone. Globally, the rate of these attacks is increasing by 6,000 percent annually. Cybersecurity Ventures has estimated that global ransomware damage costs in 2017 exceeded $5 billion.
But cyber exposure is not always a malicious, criminal act. Data security can also be compromised by employee mistakes, accidental file corruption, unforeseen power outages, or other events.
While frequent data backups and anti-virus software can help minimize the potential for cyber exposure, these measures simply aren’t enough in today’s hyper-connected business world.
For example, a financial institution may invest millions in complying with protocols and regulations, but as soon as it allows interaction with a customer or employee’s personal device, it introduces a new endpoint — and increases its data exposure exponentially.
Data Governance: Bringing Data Under Control
The good news is that there is a way to survive, and even thrive, in the face of today’s data explosion. Intelligent data governance provides a means to not only protect a company’s most sensitive and strategic data — but also to leverage it as a competitive advantage.
Defining and enacting an intelligent data governance strategy enables organizations to capture, harness, and utilize their enormous volume of information. This data can be analyzed to reveal competitive insights, inform new product and service development, and establish closer connections with customers.
At its most foundational level, data governance means bringing data under control and keeping it protected. But it also means knowing where data originated, where it is currently located, who can access it, what it contains, and how long it should be retained. Intelligent data governance also implies that trivial data is distinguished from strategically important information that can be used to produce a competitive edge.
Getting Started: A Practical Plan
Because they’re operating under a high level of pressure and scrutiny, businesses often over-invest when first implementing a data governance strategy. They may create a new functional silo specifically dedicated to data security or build an entirely new IT infrastructure.
The truth is, intelligent data governance simply means practical planning. By using software to move data to a central hub — then managing access, protection, and retention for each data point — organizations are well on their way to achieving data governance success. Data analytics can help sift through the huge volume of information and separate the most important insights for creating business value.
Once data is centralized and thoughtfully managed, businesses can easily respond to regulatory inquiries, identify customer needs, anticipate emerging issues, and explore new business opportunities. They can protect their information assets while still allowing key stakeholders in the business to leverage data for improved decision making.
When it comes to data governance, striking an appropriate balance is key — enabling the business to comply with regulations while still enjoying the flexibility and speed that are essential in today’s fast-moving world.
Learn more about the importance of implementing an intelligent data governance strategy by downloading the e-book, “Intelligent Data Governance for Dummies.”