GDPR could be an opportunity in the making

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    Amr Kamel, General Manager, Microsoft West East and Central Africa

    Today the 25th May, 2018 marks the deadline of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance yet there are very business leaders who are not thinking about the depth of the challenges as well as opportunities the law offers.

    As a quick refresher, GDPR is a new European law designed to protect the privacy of citizens, by setting new standards in terms of how personal data is handled. As the law affects any organization with ties to Europe, it is relevant to businesses around the world.

    Why is GDPR being introduced at this point in time?

    According to Amr Kamel, General Manager, Microsoft West East and Central Africa, as companies increasingly embrace the cloud, they have an unprecedented ability to capture and store massive amounts of data.

    Kamel adds that in parallel to this advancements in business, intelligence technology have given organizations the ability to pull insights from this data that are so rich they are actually predictive in nature. The result: businesses can stay a step ahead of customer expectations and needs, versus merely reacting to them.

    “This is a significant step forward and truly marks the beginning of a new era, one in which data becomes the electricity powering companies. An updated governance framework for data protection is a logical policy component of this new age. Building on these rules, innovation coupled with trust among businesses and citizens will unlock productivity, help companies keep their customers delighted and fuel a new generation of disruptors. Ultimately, all of this translates into growth,” said Kamel.

    “When I’m speaking to our customers about GDPR, I often encourage them to forget about the ‘R’ and think in terms of ‘GDP’ – i.e. focus on how General Data Protection can contribute to Growth Domestic Product. The business imperative isn’t just about complying with new rules. It’s an opportunity to reevaluate the use of data as a core growth enabler,” asserts Kamel.

    In fact, the European Commission estimates that EU companies’ digitization of products and services could add more than €110 billion to the economy in the next five years. Businesses that have a unified strategy for leveraging, managing, and governing data will not only be the companies driving this growth over the next few years, but also those that will thrive in the decades to come.

    We hear about the real life impact of embracing a smart data strategy every day from the businesses we work with. Thanks to cloud and analytics tools powered by artificial intelligence, one of our European retail customers is using its data in a completely new way for competitive advantage. Utilizing video footage captured in store, the retailer can now assess what sort of customers it appeals to and what their in-store interests are. This brick-and-mortar retailer can easily extract insights from this data to optimize in-store layouts, promotional offers and marketing activities. As a result, the company has reported a direct positive impact on sales.

    It’s important to note that this is not a large franchise, but a shop with about 20 employees – demonstrating that any company can cost-effectively use data to better serve customers and compete more effectively.

    In addition to optimizing a core business, a strategic approach to data can be used to unlock new revenue streams, as happened when we worked with a world-class football club. With millions of international fans, the club set about analyzing data from digital and social channels across the globe in order to gain a laser-focused view of its followers, whether they lived in Italy or South Korea. Using these insights, the club was able to build a new digital business, aimed at delivering highly targeted content, promotions and offers to fans. Digital engagement soared, showing that fans appreciated the more personalized experiences the club was offering. More than that, the return on investment was high, with the digital business seeing double-digit growth.

    In this new data era, I believe that companies from every sector face bigger opportunities for growth than ever before. But reaping the full benefits of innovation, even with the right rules in place, requires a collective effort to create trust. This trust is built on the enduring principles of security, privacy, transparency and regulatory compliance.

    Technology providers have a key role to play here.

    Security features need to be prioritized right at the beginning of product development. Further, technology leaders have an obligation to ensure that privacy is respected and that there is complete transparency in terms of how their customers’ data is used and stored.

    In terms of regulatory compliance, cloud service providers have an opportunity to offer their customers greater peace of mind. By ensuring their services comply with internationally-recognized standards, such as those set by ISO and other third parties, cloud providers can help organizations more confidently use data to transform their businesses.

    While technology players can greatly facilitate a company’s transformation, individual business leaders are essential in ensuring their organizations are ready to transform and take a holistic approach to data. Prioritizing data management and governance right alongside how that data will be used for commercial benefit is critical. In my experience, it’s vital that this mindset comes from the top and becomes embedded within the culture of the business.

    I firmly believe that embracing the cloud and modern data technology offers every organization an opportunity to better engage with customers, empower employees and optimize the creation and delivery of products and services. In my opinion, milestones such as the GDPR will accelerate this trend, helping companies to successfully scale, innovate and compete – both locally and internationally.

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