Chief data officers crucial to future-proof businesses & win public trust
Chief data officers crucial to future-proof businesses & win public trust
As the recent Uber hack illuminated only all too well, the cyber-threat landscape has evolved exponentially in recent years. Cyber-security is now very firmly a business issue, as opposed to merely an IT issue. Concurrently, these days, data is a company's largest asset; the lifeblood of any contemporary organisation, it's worthy of a place on the balance sheet. It follows that the prospect of cyber-threats should demand the attention of those sitting at the very top of a business. 

However, on top of the aforementioned Uber example, recent data breaches such as Equifax, Deloitte, and (more locally) Cash Converters have starkly highlighted the dangers faced by businesses and customers alike when such data isn't handled securely. Indeed, the most shocking aspect of the Uber breach was that Uber's C-suite paid US$ 100,000 (£75,000) to the hackers responsible for the attack on the basis that the stolen data would be destroyed. As seen in countless other cases, cyber-criminals can never be trusted to keep their promises. Consequently, in transactional exchanges such as Uber's, there's never a way to be certain that such data has been deleted, or that it will be unencrypted and returned. 

This is where the importance of investing in a Chief Data Officer (CDO) becomes more and more apparent. In our always-online world, as well as being more vigilant when it comes to security protection in and of itself, it's paramount to adopt a data focus within the C-suite.

Alarmingly, new research from data science company Profusion has shown that UK businesses are falling behind other countries in the effective use of data. The report analysed the CDO role, discovering only two percent of FTSE 100 companies had such a position at a senior level. By contrast, research from the IDC indicates 77 percent of FTSE 100 executives say data and analytics is the most important tech trend of the next three years.

This is particularly alarming when considering the crisis of trust and confidence among the British public following high-profile hacks, which should serve as an impetus for companies to develop more robust procedures for using and analysing their data. Considering the IDC also predicted that, by 2025, 90 percent of global data will require protection but less than half will be secured, this should serve as a call to arms for any serious enterprise to invest in a CDO to oversee the processes.

Businesses both big and small need to urgently put in place effective organisational structures and processes to not only deliver on the opportunity data offers but also to protect against its inherent risks -- especially with the impending complications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Uber hack is a prime example of exactly why GDPR is so vital. Over and over again, businesses have experienced significant data breaches, resulting in extremely worrying implications for those whose data was compromised. Once the new legislation comes into force, companies will have to notify victims of a data breach and carry out an investigation within 72 hours or face hefty fines. This way, individuals affected by the breach stands the best chance of getting ahead of the cyber-mafia that have poached their data.

Additionally, it's worth noting that the GDPR legislation is an opportunity for CDOs to perform a data inventory that evolves how data is stored, remaining GDPR-compliant while also establishing an accountability structure. Moreover, acting as an arbiter of truth, CDOs can transform data into something that fuels a business while also safeguarding it from miscreants by liaising directly with the likes of CIOs, CSOs, and CTOs. Highly attuned to the commercial agenda and the need to prove ROI, a good CDO will optimally understand the financial risks of failing to comply with the likes of GDPR - both in terms of monetary fines and the cost to a company's reputation following a breach.

However, the importance of the CDO having the support of the whole C-Level cannot be overstated, with the CEO needing to buy into a security-focused approach to data management. Over time, this should promote a positive data culture within a business from the top down that can drive cultural change during a time of seemingly incessant cyber-disruption. The lines are clear: failure to do so will lead to the UK suffering more security breaches and more businesses running afoul of compliance to key legislation, leading to Britain's digital economy suffering as a result. With all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, this is a risk that the UK simply cannot afford to take.

Ultimately, therefore, businesses that wish to safeguard their data must invest in the power of a CDO, as this is a pivotal role that can maximise the value of a company's data while remaining responsible for broader data governance -- a crucial dovetail in today's world. 

Contributed by Dr Jamie Graves, CEO, ZoneFox

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media UK or Haymarket Media.