Understanding the flow of data through a business is crucial to maximising growth as well as compliance with GDPR.

Andy Berry, vice president EMEA for global technology company Pitney Bowes Software, says that connecting the dots can provide valuable insight into customers.

Pitney Bowes provides digital commerce solutions to 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies, including IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and eBay, as well as more than a million small- and medium-sized businesses.

It helps with customer information management and engagement, location intelligence, shipping and mailing.

“Consider how data comes into an organisation. There are 40 different marketing channels available: a customer might phone in; use instant chat on your website; send you a direct message on Twitter. How do you record this information – if at all?” Berry told BusinessCloud.

“Do you note the customer’s preferred communications channels or Twitter interaction? And following this initial contact, how does this information flow around the business?

“As the customer journey progresses, the data flow becomes even more complex and open to risk of duplication, of inputting error, of expiry and inaccuracy as more datapoints are created and more employees record information on that customer in different ways, for different purposes.”

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in May 2018. Despite Brexit the UK will have to comply: the proposed Data Protection Bill will implement it into UK law and put it into a national context.

GDPR

Firms found responsible for a serious data breach under the UK’s Data Protection Bill could face fines of up to £17 million or four per cent of annual turnover, equivalent to the EU penalties.

“Both have the robust protection of personal data at their heart,” continued Berry. “Organisations need to gain a broader understanding of the flow of their data through their business if they are to prepare themselves for the GDPR.

“Keeping data current and accurate through effective customer information management is an important foundation for GDPR compliance: for example, 84 per cent of marketing databases have been found to be barely functional while 23 per cent of data held by organisations is believed to be inaccurate.

“Under the GDPR, businesses will be held accountable for outdated or incomplete information. Businesses must discover and profile the personal data they hold across the enterprise and ensure it is valid, accurate and up-to-date.

“They must minimise the data they hold, and add governance that supports requirements for right of access, rectification, deletion and the restriction of data processing.”

Conducting an audit and improving data management offers more to businesses than compliance with the law.

“Companies with a clear understanding of their data make decisions based on accurate insight, rather than assumptions,” said Berry.

“They are closer to their customers, can deliver omnichannel engagement based on customer preferences and accurately forecast customer behaviours.

“Inaccurate data held in silos across a business generates costs and inhibits growth.”

Pitney Bowes says it can help clients gain a broader understanding of the flow of their data through their business and provide a strong foundation to prepare for the new regulations. However, it does not provide legal advice.