cost effective gdpr compliance for sme'S

According to the latest survey results, the majority of SME businesses are unsure about meeting the GDPR compliance deadline. Moreover, a large part of the business community is unsure of the overall relevance of GDPR to their core business model and operations as well as the overall cost of compliance and business disruption it may cause.

So what should businesses do?

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REORGANISE

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STRATEGISE

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OPERATIONALISE

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TRANSFORM


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REORGANISE

  • Determine the relevance of GDPR to your business and operating model: GDPR is not about data protection, it is about personal data protection. It is important that businesses determine the degree of personal data they use. 

Actual personal data usage may be very different from perception. For example – a simple weather updates portal. It does not need any personal customer data however it does store and processe the names, addresses, family details, bank account numbers, passport details, work authorisations, salaries, bonus payments and sick leave details of its 50 geographically spread agents. All of these are personal data and some are sensitive data

  • Reorganise asset ownership and limit liabilities: SME owners should take advice on  reorganising their business ownership and asset ownership. Numerous businesses start as one man idea and then evolve to become a small team. But, due to digital connect or a people based operating model, they collect significant personal data. Owning sensitive assets with associate compliance and liabilities can best be addressed by forming corporate entities and limiting individual liability. 

The corporate entity should be the owner of share capital and owner of assets including data/digital assets – even if the product is an app available online with a relatively small number of users.

  • Consolidate data ownership: Personal data is an essential element of business flow. Many SMEs use online software-as-a-service tools to manage their business processes and since one tool may not give them all functionalities, data often resides in multiple sets. It’s therefore critical that businesses build their data asset inventory and document who is owner/active custodian of data sets available. 

This is good business practice and will provide GDPR and compliance objectives.

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STRATEGISE

  • Establish and evaluate scope of compliance: Consult your legal advisor to determine your scope of compliance. SMEs often operate as virtual organizations with staff working in different geographies and governed under different cyber security and data protection laws. Similarly, digital product consumption is global. It is therefore critical that SMEs draw a clear scope of compliance.

The scope of compliance needs to be evaluated to identify possible risk avoidance strategies, for example switching to a same country cloud service provider. Why climb the hill when you can go around it?

  • Determine optimum compliance budget: Businesses need to establish an optimum compliance budget. It is important that management considers overall scale, sensitivity and competition parameters on personal data use. If a business uses significant personal data then GDPR compliance is a necessity. If however, GDPR compliance is also expected to offer competitive advantage then it’s important to have marketing team on-board and share some costs. Organisations can subscribe to numerous GDPR compliance services rather than making capital investments.
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OPERATIONALISE

  • Evaluate “DPO as a service”: GDPR requires an organisation to appoint a person in the position of Data Protection Officer - DPO. But, it gives flexibility to have the DPO position as a full time, part-time, shared or a contract resource.  In order to reduce cost whilst maintaining compliance, SMEs must explore the option of appointing a shared DPO.

The DPO credential requirements are quite unique and “DPO as a service” provides SMEs the most efficient and practical support on compliance. The business should evaluate the DPO’s personal competence, intellectual property and support team available to address the variety of challenges that GDPR compliance is expected to present.

  • Move to a managed service model with suppliers and insist on their GDPR readiness: Outsourcing or specialised sourcing is a great way of implementing efficiency and business compliance. Due to shared cost overheads, the impact of particular compliance drops significantly. In line with this strategy, organisations should move to a managed service model for the parts of their business operations which fit their outsourcing strategy. During the implementation of a managed service strategy as a business or efficiency initiative, specialised focus should be given on compliance. This should reflect in the contractual terms that are entered as well as the governance framework for performance management. 

The Data controller will continue to remain accountable, sourcing a specialised and compliant data processor may just relieve management of large recurring compliance investments.

  • Market your GDPR compliance as a competitive strength: SMEs need to market the GDPR compliance of their product and business to derive competitive leverage. Large businesses have much higher at stake in terms of penalties and brand loss but they also have compliance budgets and programs for internal systems and processes. These compliance programs include ensuring current and prospective suppliers are GDPR compliant.

Being ahead in the race for compliance and marketing it as a strength would avoid elimination on compliance grounds and lend a power advantage during techno-commercial negotiations.

  • Implement cyber security hygiene practices: The key concern of regulatory (ICO) wrath will originate from two sources - A serious complaint from a data subject on systemic non-compliance or security incidents of personal data leakage impacting individual privacy. It’s therefore important to note that more than 70% of security incidents result from weak implementation of security basics, e.g. “admin-admin” username-password combinations, out dated unpatched systems, common password sharing, firewall any-any configurations, more than need/role based access, insider collusion, etc. 

Implementation of good security basics (refer to Cyber Essentials ©) which includes managerial and technical controls gives moderately strong data protection assurance to business management and will shield against higher penalties.

  • Take insurance cover: If the business is focussed on personal data, it is critically important that the organisation has cyber insurance cover. 

This cost will provide the necessary oxygen in case of multiple controls failure. With a constant rise in cyber incidents and a higher participation of insider agents (employees, ex-employees, suppliers staff), data leakages by error can lead to fines, loss of goodwill, disruption of operations and significant erosion of customer confidence and revenue. There could be additional liabilities emerging from suits that may be filed by customers, investors or partners.

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TRANSFORM

  • Embrace privacy be design: SMEs need to make a fundamental shift on data governance. Their products, processes and customer interactions need to respect personal data from collection to disposal. They need to evaluate concepts of data minimization, data segregation, data retention, identity management, disclosures, consent and lawful/agreed processing norms. The concepts of the data lean organisation needs to be implemented.

This is a cultural change which DPOs are expected to drive as they operationalise their roles for GDPR compliance.


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