The data economy has transformed the world this century. But for organisations of every size, type, and purpose it presents risks and challenges as well as opportunities.
There is a sense throughout the world that some enterprises have become too powerful - too wealthy, perhaps, in terms of the amount of data ‘currency' they hold. It is a growing concern to lawmakers how much these organisations can use it to influence the world around them, including the subjects of their data: citizens and consumers.
There is also a sense that many people have divulged too much, too freely, about themselves and their lives, allowing them to become almost like the products of powerful social networks, which sell their lives and preferences on to invisible networks of advertising partners. We all know those companies' names.
It is almost as if the term ‘data subjects' now has two meanings: the person about whom data is held, and people who exist in feudal data kingdoms, which are themselves battling for dominance across the globe.
Resetting the data balance
As a result, regulators in many parts of the world have stepped in to try to reset the balance between organisations and data subjects. For example, the European Union introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK implemented its local version, the Data Protection Act 2018, which has additional provisions.
In some cases, the regulations' introduction has forced organisations to get to grips with the basics of data protection for the first time, even though they had legal obligations under earlier rules, such as the Data Protection Act 1998.
Meanwhile, the US state of California introduced data protection legislation of its own this year, the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) - partly to protect its citizens from companies based in the state, in Silicon Valley. Many of those companies opposed the legislation.
But regulations are also growing industry by industry - both vertically and horizontally. Regulations in different parts of the world and in different sectors not only affect how organisations deal with their customers and with each other, but also with their own employees.
Organisations are rightly affected by countless other regulations and codes of conduct, such as equal opportunities rules governing gender, age, sexuality, religious belief, disability, employment rights, and more.
For professionals in the private sector, in public bodies, and in the third and voluntary sectors, their responsibilities and legal obligations have never been higher, more complex, and more laden with risk if they fall foul of the rules.
This applies both in terms of their legal and financial obligations, and in the court of public opinion on social media, where reputations can be won or lost in an instant.
So how can the responsible owners and users of data within organisations stay on the right track and monitor their own compliance?
For example, how can professionals in Human Resources, Finance, or Accounting stay on the right side of the law and public opinion, and ensure they are behaving fairly and responsibly? How can they act in accordance with their own professional standards, as well as adapt to local rules and cultural sensitivities?
One means of doing so is via enterprise cloud platforms that are built to accommodate compliance requirements in critical business functions, allowing professionals to build reports, integrations, and business processes that meet their own specific needs - locally and globally.
The reporting problem
Reporting is often a challenge in some industries, where regulators may leave it up to companies to interpret rules in their own ways, making automation and standardisation difficult. This is another area where cloud platforms can help.
Back-office platforms that are built for a compliance-centric world can accommodate location, date, and privacy preferences, protect sensitive personal data with robust encryption and standard protocols, and give professionals access to prebuilt forms and frameworks - often in multiple languages.
With specialist knowledge on offer to their own customers, some providers offer regulatory insights across multiple jurisdictions from their own networks of legal experts. After all, they have to operate within the law as well in order to provide a leading-edge professional service to their customers.
For example, users can deploy standard reports for HR, Payroll, and Time Tracking, as well as plans covering sickness, holidays, and other absences. Thanks to the cloud, HR professionals can drill down and report on multiple data dimensions in real time, from any device.
These capabilities also allow users to adapt quickly to regulatory changes, which have become as inevitable as the proverbial death and taxes, enabling managers and team leaders to stay ahead of emerging practices and standards.
Not only that, but cloud platforms perform another critical function: ensuring that personal information stays private.