Summer reading: where data has driven us thus far in 2018

Establishing customer trust has become the new business focus in the era of data collection

virtual blocks of data
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It’s not unlikely that future generations will look back at the first half of 2018 as the time the world woke up to data. In this short period, two developments, vastly different in scope and reach, converged to change the discussion around the bytes that help power the planet.

To start with the big and obvious: on May 25, the world embraced GDPR, the biggest data privacy act in history. Although GDPR coupled draconian regulations with onerous fines, it was more so a symbol of data’s vast importance to humanity.

Around this time, enterprise found the most accurate way yet of talking about the next frontier in data management: the data hub. Uniting the monumental data innovations of the past decade into a single platform, the data hub lays the groundwork for businesses to use.

I have been chronicling these developments throughout the year, taking stock of the situation and adding insights. Take a journey through the literature—cool reading for the hot days of summer.

GDPR crosses the pond

Remember the flurry of frantic “we value your data” emails in late May snd early June? No longer could organizations put off the inevitable: they were unprepared for GDPR. There was the collective sense of panic at the realization that somewhere in the bowels of their servers they might possess information about a “data subject”—GDPR lingo for a human being—who suddenly had the rights to have their data “ported” and “erased.”

We understood early on that GDPR “crossed the Pond”; my first article of the year explained that GDPR was a truly global regulation because it stipulated that any organization with a single byte of data on an EU citizen—essentially every Fortune 1000 company—could be subject to the law.

GDPR would change the way organizations captured, stored, and analyzed data—change the very nature of business itself. That’s what landmark regulations do—think Sarbanes-Oxley in corporate accounting.

Yet my argument was that GDPR is not a bogeyman to fear but a reality to embrace. Echoing points I made the year about turning GDPR into an opportunity, I went on Cameron D’Ambrosi’s One World Identity podcast to discuss how the regulation was really just rehashing the problems that master data management and data governance people have been dealing with forever: how to instantly locate all of a customer’s information. That’s not just about compliance, it’s about establishing trust with customers and building their loyalty—it’s about smart business.

The intelligent data hub

It just so happened that in the month or so before GDPR went live, I was at the Gartner & Data Analytics Summits in the UK and US realizing that the esteemed Gartner analysts were finally using a language that spoke to our xDM technology: the intelligent data hub.

As I get at in “Making intelligent data hubs a reality,” the data hub brings a host a capabilities—data integration, data enrichment, workflows, information governance and stewardship, metadata management (and storage), data lineage, audit and traceability, data cataloging—together to meet today’s businesses’ needs.

And the “intelligent” part is that final layer, smart algorithms applied under the covers, so that users up and down an organization can get suggestions to help with stewardship, matching and merging, and more.

All data is human data

What all these advances and initiatives in our space reflect is the much-welcomed emphasis on human data. Enterprises don’t exist for fun; they deliver goods and services to real people. Data has become an organization’s lifeblood in the digital world, and that has made it easy to forget that all data, from an address to a browser history, tells a story about a person.

The day before GDPR went live, I gave an interview to TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson about this concept, which I later expanded on in my column. As I wrote back in June, “It’s as if, after three decades of the internet and ten years of smartphones, people have said, ‘You can have my information, just treat me like a person.’”

We’ve reached a point where people—particularly Millennials, and certainly their Gen Z followers, the first generation to not know a world without the internet—have no illusions about who has their data. What they want is for the organizations that have it to be honest and transparent about it—and to use it to make their lives easier.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.