The business world has finally entered the post-GDPR era, filled with a sense of trepidation regarding what issues may arise under these new regulations. As the dust of thousands of data privacy consent emails settles, companies are starting to examine how they can utilise these new processes to their advantage. In preparation for the GDPR deadline, many businesses were forced to examine the data they held in disparate silos and implement processes to organise, classify and tag content. As a result, they have streamlined their workflows in order to better handle their own data sprawl.

This has directly benefited their ongoing digital transformation, as content is now better understood and processed, which will minimise interruption to workflows.

Before GDPR, digital transformation presented both an opportunity and a challenge to organisations as they moved away from legacy equipment and processes that acted as hindrances to growth. The aim was to utilise new technology that allowed agility and innovation, whilst keeping up with the demands of the modern workforce, such as remote access to servers. Simultaneously, this new technology would support workers and ease bottlenecks which historically impeded productivity. However, challenges arose due to issues around legacy system integration and user adoption. In addition, processes became more open to scrutiny as customers and users became far more knowledgeable and critical of failure and underperformance than before. This meant that to preserve workflows and outputs, employees would utilise workarounds and shadow IT practices, but this concurrently contributed to data sprawl.

GDPR forced this data sprawl to be identified and contained. The process of defining and securing a company’s data was fundamental best practice for attaining and retaining compliance with the GDPR and avoiding crippling fines. There was too much at stake and too much value locked up in the data held by the average businesses for it to be unaccounted for. Companies who employed the approach of identifying valuable data early and integrating these processes as part of their ongoing digital transformation strategy were therefore far ahead of their competitors.

However, it’s not always obvious to see how these two fit together. Preparing for GDPR may have seemed like an expensive box-ticking exercise with no tangible business benefits for some organisations. And full compliance with the regulations did not necessarily ensure security and added a layer of processes that had to be adhered to. Instead of being the end, GDPR compliance should be viewed as another stepping stone on the digital transformation journey. A useful puzzle piece that ultimately helps an organisation achieve their end goal. By reviewing the data that an organisation holds, as well as the way it is handled can unlock other potential ideas of how to improve and streamline processes. In addition, key insights can be gained by analysing this data, which will ultimately inform how the company progresses and grows.

It is important to realise that although the benefits of data utilisation are clear, it can also pose far greater risks. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal highlighted what happens when companies play hard and fast with data and view it as an additional revenue stream. The scandal damaged Facebook’s stock price and led to the eventual folding of Cambridge Analytica, demonstrating the very real cost of misusing data and damaging user trust. Where personal data is involved, customers are unlikely to be satisfied or sympathetic to claims of compliance if their data has been compromised.

In order to maximise the benefits of operating in a post-GDPR world, organisations should take an objective look at how the regulations align with their own business goals. Perhaps the process of becoming compliant highlighted a few areas where the organisation was excelling and some that could benefit from further exploration or innovation. In addition, compliance with GDPR alone is not enough to guarantee data security, but provides a strong starting point. Organisations can build on and reinforce defences to ensure they are as robust as possible, to maintain customer trust.

In time, organisations will see how the processes put in place to ensure compliance have facilitated their ongoing digital transformation goals, specifically if they made intelligent choices with a focus on quality from the outset. Rather than viewing the compliance deadline as the end of a journey, it can be seen as the start, with a focus on maintaining compliance and building upon existing processes. The world of business is changing rapidly and company data can generate far greater rewards beyond simple compliance. However, transparency around how this data is used will be key going forward, especially as more customers become aware of how valuable their personal information is. Businesses must view the post-GDPR world in a positive light and use the lessons learned along their digital transformation journey to help shape the future.