By Neil Sholay, Vice President of Digital, EMEA, Oracle
With GDPR compliance now mandatory, European businesses are razor-focussed on their data protection measures, and with good reason. The regulation brings some long-overdue structure to today’s data economy, and the public is clearly eager for greater transparency into how their information is being used.
How did we get here? When did data make the leap from static figures in a spreadsheet to one of our most valuable sources of capital?
Just as prospectors once crossed continents in search of gold, companies today spare no expense in collecting as much data as possible to inform their decision-making and grow their bottom line — and it all began with the personal device revolution. It’s been just 11 years since Apple brought smartphones into the mainstream, but most of us can’t imagine life without our mobiles. The average person now checks their phone every 12 minutes, and in China smartphone usage is set to overtake the time people spend watching TV.
When we touch our mobile screen more than 1 million times each year, we create an enormous collection of data points. This information may seem innocuous, but it all adds up to an invaluable breadcrumb trail of insight that helps companies to better understand customers and target them with more personalised services.
Take Caixa Bank, one of Spain’s largest financial services companies, which uses its customer data to maintain a centralized view of how people interact with its services in-branch, online and on their mobiles. Established banks are fighting off competition from a range of new all-digital challengers, and this deeper understanding of customers helps organizations like Caixa Bank deliver the best of both worlds: a strong heritage in the industry and more tailored digital services.
The same is true in the telecoms industry, where operators such as Telefonica have implemented an analytics program to better understand how customers use their services. By drawing on this insight, Telefonica can tempt its subscribers with additional content and propositions that are specifically tailored to their preferences.
Businesses are also looking more closely at their internal data to work more efficiently and cut costs. After centralizing its operations data, the UK’s National Health Services Business Services Authority began to spot and address inefficiencies that helped it save more than £580 million in just two years.
For many organizations, the real value in data lies in predictive maintenance, the practice of pre-empting the failure of a product before it leads to major issues or customer discontent. For instance, today’s connected cars relay vast amounts of performance data to dealerships and car manufacturers such as General Motors. With this information to hand, companies can instantly alert drivers of any urgent issues that needs servicing before these cause any inconvenience or danger.
Never have businesses had so much information on their customers and prospects. It began with the smartphone, but everything from our cars to our kitchen appliances now contribute to the digital breadcrumb trail, and this is only the beginning. Businesses will continue to uncover new ways of collecting, combining, and extracting value from the information we provide.
As Oracle’s Paul Sonderegger told The Economist: “Data will be the ultimate externality: we will generate it whatever we do.”
This digital gold rush has already been a boon for businesses and consumers alike. All the mobile banking apps, food delivery services, and messaging platforms we use each day work so well and seem so personalized to our needs only because the companies behind them collect and act on user information to develop their offering. GDPR will by no means mark the end of these services, but it will bring balance to the relationship between organizations and the people they serve.
Many companies will be tempted to treat new regulation as a burden, but as with any change, it is also an opportunity. GDPR compliance is a short-term goal, but by rethinking their data management and security processes for a more open and transparent customer dynamic, businesses will ensure they can cope with evolving regulation in the long-term while giving consumers the confidence that their data is being used responsibly.
To paraphrase TechUK’s Sue Daley, who joined a panel of data experts to discuss GDPR on the Oracle Business Podcast, we are moving to a world driven by connected devices, greater automation, and new forms of artificial intelligence. To succeed with these technologies, businesses will need the public to trust their approach to managing data.
Indeed, in an increasingly interconnected world we will see businesses shift from traditional security tools to risk and trust management, and now is the time to build a solid foundation for this more trusting future.