In 2020 HotTopics.ht and Truata embarked on a mission to discover and celebrate 100 chief data officers or equivalent who were pioneering innovation in data with an eye for the privacy of their customers. These Data Visionaries were compiled into a global top 100—a first for the industry and a testament to how far the chief data officer has come as we enter the age of AI, machine learning, ethics and the promises of privacy. What is top of mind for these leaders? And, as we enter the second year of a globally disruptive period, what do they need from the rest of the C-Suite to propel their companies forward?
Ethics, data and privacy
Paul Davison, Head of Data at Royal Mail, has been following a number of trends, he reported, but the most important for him was data ethics.
“As we utilize technologies such as machine learning and AI, the ethics of their use becomes simultaneously more important and more interesting to more people, which it should be,” Davison said, before adding, “I’m a great believer in sense checking everything you do: if I can do this, should I?”
Norma Dove-Edwin fully supported this mantra. The former global data lead for British American Tobacco and Chief Data Officer for Places for People, one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, understands the complexities of data governance across large organizations.
“You need policies and ways of working set up before you embark on a data journey,” Dove-Edwin said. “That way everyone understands what your company’s stance on ethics is, which is important in building trust and transparency with the consumer.”
One thing apparent in this debate was the increasing leverage the consumer had in dictating business policy. When it comes to user data, the roundtable discussed, more and more people were engaging with their rights and the value exchange found online. The underlying message was that if businesses don’t keep up with the level of service and trust expected by customers, they’ll be overlooked.
“The control is going back to the customer,” Dove-Edwin continued, “and it is in fact a win-win scenario for the industry. If they trust you and you can demonstrate how transparent you are in how you use their data, they will become more loyal.”
Truata’s own Chief Privacy Officer and Chief of Product Innovation, Aoife Sexton, agreed that companies need to be more data-diven to stay competitive. She described the world businesses are finding themselves in today to prove the point:
“Businesses have far more data governance expected of them now,” said Sexton. “By 2023, 80 percent of businesses will have at least one protection to comply with, for example.”
The rise of the privacy activist
Couple that with Dove-Edwin’s consumer predictions and you have encouragement from two sides for businesses to expand and verify an easy to understand data policy. But Sexton went a step further:
“There’s more willingness by customers to act on their convictions and direct their spend accordingly. Much like people buy for environmental reasons, some people will only choose businesses who demonstrate ethical use of their data.
“Truata conducted a study of 8000 customers globally on their attitude to personal data. Around 77 percent described privacy as essential and 63 percent would stop using a brand if they were proved unsafe with data.”
Sexton introduced the roundtable to the term “privacy activist”, those individuals who will proactively demand stringent protection on individual data. It is—and will continue to be—the Chief Data Officer’s responsibility to ensure that, they voiced.
In South Africa, Hollard Insurance is having to adapt to similar legislations and customer trends. Its Head of Data, Analytics and Insights Jacky Mampana confirmed that many in his region are increasingly aware of what they can expect from businesses and who to turn to when they feel unprotected.
The roundtable continued and went on to cover the relationship between data, customers, trust and the leadership team. What’s clear for now is that more clarity is needed on what customers expect from businesses and how that will be reflected in both international law and company design. In 2020, the chief data officer is important in navigating a business within that context whilst still providing innovation-inspiring analytics. For 2021 and beyond their role may have to incorporate the ethics of privacy and trust in an increasingly savvy customer market.
This roundtable is brought to you in partnership with Truata. Truata is a leading provider of privacy-enhanced data solutions. Specializing in privacy risk assessment, de-identification and true anonymization of data, Truata’s suite of proprietary software solutions and services enables businesses to unlock powerful insights while ensuring that they comply with the highest level of global data protection standards.