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Sunday, September 15, 2019

C-Suite Advisory

Employee knowledge is power: How to effectively share information

Dr Gero Decker, CEO of Signavio

In recent years, companies have undergone huge changes in the way they operate, from external compliance and regulatory change and internal cultural shifts.

Over a third of organizations spend at least an entire day per week tracking and analyzing regulatory change and two-thirds of organizations expect regulators to publish even more regulatory information in the coming year, according to Thomson Reuters.

With the increasing digitalization of B2C services and the subsequent generation of personal data, core products and services are not necessarily the most valuable asset companies have to offer anymore.

The availability of personal data, from spending and shopping habits, to credit and loan applications provide invaluable insight that can be used to refine and market existing products and services, as well as inform the development of new ones.

The risk associated with this data however, is significant (particularly in a highly regulated industries like financial services) and slip-ups can come with costly ramifications. With such sensitive information about customers, it is only obvious that strict processes around the use, management and protection of this data are put into place, without limiting the ability to advance the industry.

This can be anxiety-inducing for leaders and often, it’s easier to restrict access to information to mitigate the risks. However, in the long-term, shutting employees out and having departments work in silos is counterintuitive to collaboration and consequently, growth.

So then, how can we empower employees to use and share information for benefits, without compromising data security?

1. Define and communicate the rules and expectations

Create a framework that identifies which data is sensitive, how it should be used, managed stored, and who is allowed to access and share this. It should meet the requirements of your specific industry (for example it may need to be GDPR compliant in certain markets) as well as allow for flexibility, transparency, and scalability to future proof your organization, and ensure it is able to adapt to changing regulatory and audit requirements as they happen.

In other words, your compliance and data-protection system must be set up to be and remain compliant itself. Many industries are required to keep detailed documentation showing exactly how data is translated into the company’s day-to-day operational workings. They may also be required to demonstrate and prove exactly how, and when, communications to staff regarding how to work compliantly were done, and may even require formal acknowledgement and record of this.

Having a clear set of expectations and rules around the sharing of data is the first step to take before access to sensitive data is granted to employees. Most importantly, this framework should be well communicated to everybody across the organization and should be core to your onboarding process with new hires.

2.  Develop better business processes

Process-led transformation enables businesses to massively increase operational efficiency and engage with their customers’ needs, allowing for true data analysis and behavioral insights. Along with re-centering processes to focus foremost on the customer, business process management (BPM) can help teams to innovate more readily, increase the introduction of new products to the market, and reduce risks and costs.

However despite knowing this, BPM is not being leveraged as efficiently as it could be. Global research we’ve commissioned at Signavio suggests improper documentation is a painpoint for 81 percent of overall respondents, and concerningly, 94 percent of respondents in the finance industry and 89 percent in insurance.

3. Use the right tools

Once you have the frameworks and process in order, ensure you have the right tools to work with. Organizations can work to build single sources of knowledge within their intranets and databases (or third-party software) that allow them to update workers about changes quickly and easily, reducing the risk of non-compliant activities.  If you’re using a central database or CRM, ensure the program has robust security features than enable permission management at a granular level and has full transparency of who has accessed the data and how it was used.

Ensure security basics are flawless, from strong secure passwords, 2-factor authentication and frequent updates across the organization. Human error is the leading cause of data-breaches.

4. Nurture a careful culture:  

Ineffective company cultures are a major source of risk for organizations. Organizational culture will affect risk-taking behavior, so it’s the responsibility of the Chief Compliance and Risk Officers to ensure the rhetoric from the top filters down to promote desirable behaviour in terms of policy compliance, risk prevention, whistleblowing and accountability – and the risk and compliance structure must support this. Ensure all staff across the organization are aware of the importance, risk, and ramifications that come with handling sensitive data. Do your staff fully understand their responsibility in using data safely? Would they feel comfortable having a stranger user their data in the same way they may leverage others’?

Above all, always remember that proper compliance and regulatory behaviours need to be demonstrated from the top of the organization. Even with the best processes and state of the art management, automation and security tools, if business leaders aren’t the ultimate champions of data responsibility, the potential of this invaluable information will never be fully realized, and worse, could land your organization in a lot of hot water.

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Dr. Gero Decker
As co-founder and CEO, Gero is responsible for Signavio’s overall strategic direction. He is a Business Process Management expert and passionate about product innovation. Before creating Signavio, he worked for SAP and McKinsey. Gero holds a PhD in Business Process Management from Hasso-Plattner-Institute. Dr. Gero Decker is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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