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Q3 data technology round-up: grappling with the rules of engagement

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Our latest Data Briefing featured a Q&A with Barry McNulty, Head of Data at Hyde Housing Group. He reveals the impact of data and technology on the housing industry: the good, the bad and the difficult. We also cover Simon Blanchard's talk on safeguarding new data solutions and Robert Bond's analysis of privacy in a world of fast-evolving technology.
Barry and samir data technology

The high speed evolution of data technology and what it can do for companies is creating challenges and opportunities in all industries. We have the potential to learn so much more about our customers and massively increase the quality of services we provide.

But we can’t get greedy, nor rush to be too helpful: there’s a whole lot of compliance to take care of.

That’s also true in the housing industry. So it was interesting to get this perspective from Barry McNulty at our latest Data Briefing.

His kindly inquisitor for the morning was Samir Sharma, MD at data strategy consultancy Datazuum. Here are a few highlights from their conversation:

Q. How has data and technology impacted on the industry and driven benefits for your organisation?

“It’s a help and a hindrance,” replied Barry. “A data quality issue is always likely to be about process, people or technology. A data quality tool can support change but you need to be clear about how the tool supports process and people and not the other way round.

He cited data visualisation tools as amongst the most helpful data-related innovations embraced at Hyde.

“It’s important that our [data] analysts think in terms of ‘how can I better tell the story of our data in a way that is going to be impactful depending on the audience?’. Visualisation of data can help as it adds a different dimension to the way you’re sharing.

“It’s changed the way our colleagues see analytics, but it also means we’ve got better tools to look at where the trends are aligning with our perceptions. It improves the business-wide engagement with data.”

It raised the problem of how insights from data can be wasted when they are not readily digestible by decision-makers or other data illiterate personnel across the organisation. Making the data speak to everyone, in a language understood by everyone, is an important part of building a truly data-driven organisation.

Q. How will the technologies of the future change things in the housing sector?

Here Barry talked about a rather niche area of where data technology can help provide better services in the housing sector. But, data privacy concerns may hinder the ability to take action…

“If you have a boiler in the house the technology can tell you a lot of things, such as whether it’s on and what the temperature is. This can impact on a lot of things, such as if someone’s boiler switched off in December. What should we do with that information? There might be a problem. Are they okay? Are they having financial difficulties?”

“There’s a different level of support we can give to the resident based on that particular data, but we need to be in a much clearer position legally to know exactly what we’re going to do with that information because the ethical side of it poses a lot of questions. We have a lot of personal information around residents. So we have to consider that what the boiler tells us about the property can be linked to personal data.”

It’s a good example of how even technology and data which is being used with good intentions can raise concerns around data privacy.

Exercise robust governance and sound ethics

The conversation led nicely into Simon Blanchard’s presentation. Simon, Senior Associate at data protection consultancy, Opt-4, guided us through the robust and flexible processes required to ensure legal compliance when developing new data solutions.

There are many innovative ways of using data, but how can you be sure it’s legally compliant? This is where the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) [see graphic on right] comes in. As the ICO states: “You must do a DPIA for processing that is likely to result in a high risk to individuals.”

Simon detailed the kinds of scenarios in which organisations would need to carry one out – and crucially, offered guidance on how to do it.

The nature of agile businesses means that the DPIA is not a one-off event. It has to scale and adapt to new ways of working, including the adoption of new data technology innovations such as new machine learning algorithms.

It’s worth asking yourself: are your governance procedures capable of adapting to the changing nature of your business?

Check out: ‘DPIA – How to Assess Projects in an Agile Environment’ – courtesy of the Data Protection Network.

Practising sound ethics is a good idea, now and in the future. That was the overriding message from Robert Bond, Partner at Bristows LLP and Chairman of the Data Protection Network.

Legislation will evolve in line with technological change. You can either take the ethical approach now and ensure your processes evolve accordingly, or try and get away with the bare minimum today and suffer the consequences of having to completely overhaul a business model which is no longer fit for the legislative landscape.

He quoted the late Giovanni Buttarelli, Head of the European Data Protection Supervisor:

“Data protection cannot be isolated from developments in AI, machine learning, big data, the internet of things, biometrics… anymore.

“Everyone who is a first-hand witness of this, from tech developers to data protection authorities, has a responsibility to acknowledge that this unprecedented digital shift is a historical moment and that new approaches are needed in light of the challenges it brings about. Whenever technological innovation came with risks and dangers, ethics have been key in addressing and preventing them.”

Robert also emphasised the importance of integrating or “baking in” data protection into processing activities and business practices, from design stage right through the lifecycle.

Round-table discussions: breaking silos and stopping SARs

data technology robert bondBefore everyone headed for the lunch buffet, a series of group discussions explored the topics raised during the presentations. Attendees took the opportunity to get advice on some of the difficult issues they were facing day-to-day and exchange best-practice, worst-practice and the grey areas in between.

The difficulty posed by siloed ways of working was a recurring theme. Clearly many organisations are still struggling to break down silos and ensure that departments are speaking to each other and managing data in a cohesive way.

There were also useful tips on how to decrease SAR requests. Hint: respond quickly to data enquiries and give them a clear answer about how their data was collected and when, otherwise they’ll take the nuclear option.

Plus, there were insightful discussions abound around how to address the balance between commercial considerations and ethics within a business.

Book now and get discounted early bird tickets for the Q4 Data Briefing on 12 November!

Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Mel Dixon
Author: Mel Dixon
Editor at Global Marketing Alliance

Editor and freelance writer wading his way through the world of data. One step at a time. Interested in data driven marketing insights supported by... data.

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