In data we trust: living up to the credo of the 21st century

Data is everything. It is also not nearly enough.

Data is everything because it is turning business models upside down, while guiding the world through its health and economic challenges. It is not enough, because it is worse than useless—it is a source of risk—unless you can trust it. The answer to this challenge is a data trust strategy: one that simultaneously maximizes data’s ability to create value and minimizes its capacity to destroy it.

Data trust today is falling, not rising

Do you believe that your company is making its data and data usage more trustworthy? If so, you’re like most business leaders. There’s just one problem: consumers don’t agree. Fifty-five percent of business leaders say that consumers trust them with their data more than two years ago. But only 21% of consumers actually report increased trust in companies’ use of their data. More (28%) say that their trust levels have been dropping. 76% of global consumers say that sharing their data with companies is a “necessary evil.”

For companies that do build trust in data, the rewards are enormous. Only 37% of companies that have a formal data valuation process include privacy teams. Integrating privacy is just one element of data trust, but these pacesetting companies are already more than twice as likely as peers to report ROI from key data-powered initiatives such as generating new products and services, improving workforce effectiveness and making business operations run smarter and faster. It’s possible to do still better: build an engine to continually convert raw information into trusted, business-critical data.

Start your data trust journey

86% of executives said in our 2019 data trust survey that their companies are in a race with competitors to extract value from data. You can only win this race if you know where you need to go: what data your business needs to grow and how you will use it. Whatever your company’s role in the marketplace, its data trust strategy begins here: determine how trusted data can help the business offer new and better value propositions, and make the whole organization nimbler—while balancing and reducing that data’s risks and costs.

Creating and fulfilling this strategy requires a new approach: a team with cross-functional expertise in finance, lines of business, data science, ethical data use, security and privacy. This team will guide ongoing collaboration to create and protect data’s value for the business. It will guide IT departments’ shift toward fewer, more capable data repositories for better access and control. It will monitor data quality, quantify its financial performance, identify new data needs and balance risk and value for new data use cases.

A framework for growth

This team will need to build and govern four capabilities in the organization, which together turn data into trusted data—the fuel for innovation and growth.

Capability one: govern

Make it formal. Set up a governance program to meet compliance requirements, address business risks and help the business better monetize more trusted data. Accelerating privacy regulation is the top emerging risk for organizations globally, cited by 64% of respondents in an April 2019 Gartner survey. With suitable, supple governance, you can meet regulations, please consumers and turbocharge the business.

Many companies are still trying to govern data function by function, business line by business line. But data’s monetization potential—and its dangers—don’t stop at the boundaries of an organizational flow chart. Centralized data governance can help reduce the risk of wrongful access, compliance errors and missed opportunities.

Capability two: discover

Identify it. Most companies have a glaring weakness: they do not know what data they have, how it is to be used or how well decision-makers can trust it. Sixty percent are not even sure that they have identified their most valuable and sensitive digital assets.

Discovering all your data to close these gaps will take time— and it requires a suite of tools and skills: consistent taxonomies, standards, and controls, supported by experts in risk, privacy and compliance. With the help of digital command and control centers, over time you can incrementally develop a single source of truth for data inventory. You will be able to separate the high-value data you need from the low-value data that clutters up your systems. You will be able to map data flow and lineage and classify and tag data for easier, more trusted use by artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

Capability three: protect

Make it safe. How to protect data, while simultaneously enhancing its value? Put business experts together with risk, security, privacy and compliance experts. Then let them look at the same data, with the same standards and taxonomies.

As cyberthreats accelerate, companies will need to continually assess gaps, train employees (especially those working from home) on cybersafety, monitor third parties and implement security and privacy by design in new products and services. That requires data-driven cyber risk management: key performance indicators (KPIs) and key risk indicators (KRIs) for technology solutions. Both the business and top leadership can then quickly assess their security capabilities and proceed with trust in their data and technology.

Capability four: minimize

Optimize it. If your company has any unsecured or unreliable data—and unless it was just founded, it almost certainly does—that data is a source of risk: both the risk of bad decisions due to bad data, and the risk of malicious actors accessing sensitive information.

Companies must minimize that risk by minimizing the target. They must govern, discover, and protect the data they need, and only the data they need—and eliminate the rest. Drafts, duplicates, superseded data, legacy data and employee personal data are common candidates for elimination. Low-value data not only creates unnecessary risk. Its presence makes it harder to locate and use the high-value data that you need.

Secure your data ambitions

Your business’s future depends on your data ambitions, and your data ambitions depend on trust. Start or accelerate your data trust journey today.

Contact us

Mir Kashifuddin

Mir Kashifuddin

Data Risk & Privacy Leader, PwC US

Brian Fox

Brian Fox

Principal, PwC US

Jay Cline

Jay Cline

US Privacy Leader, Principal, PwC US

Jane Allen

Jane Allen

Principal, Legal Business Solutions Leader, PwC US

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