We’ve all heard that “every company is now a data company.” Well, the corollary to this axiom is that every company is now also a data management company, whether it wants to be or not.
Experts speak often about how much risk organizations face if they fail to properly protect their data environments, citing the seemingly endless alphabet soup of laws and regulations governing various industries — HIPAA in healthcare, SOX (the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) in financial services, PCI DSS (the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) in retail, and GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) and CCPA (the California Consumer Privacy Act) for everyone. Still, compliance efforts often seem to be more reactive than proactive, with organizations stepping up their games only after headline-grabbing violations.
The term “modern data platform” has been brought up recently by a growing number of privacy and data-management analysts.
Like many emerging concepts in IT, the term has a somewhat elastic definition, but experts cite three qualities that characterize the technology: A modern data platform provides secure and governed data management, a centralized view of data that promotes both visibility and access, and the flexibility to rapidly adapt to new workloads and use cases.
What a Modern Data Platform Does
Rex Washburn, head of modern data platforms for CDW’s data practice, and Christopher Marcolis, head of advanced analytics and data governance at CDW, say that the solution can bring data together in an organized, searchable way.
“Data is really fueling digital transformation,” says Washburn. “But you can run out and buy all the coolest, brand-new solutions, and if you don’t have your data together in one place, your processes are going to fail. By bringing your data together in a modern data platform and having everything that’s business-focused in one place, you’re able to start leveraging all of the other technology across the organization more effectively.”
That said, the technology doesn’t literally move data to a common location, such as a data lake. Instead, it uses software to “provide the visibility that makes it appear to all come together so that end users can ultimately tap into the things they need the most,” says Marcolis.
As one might imagine, technology that offers businesses instant access and visibility of all their data delivers numerous benefits. Regulatory compliance may not be the most exciting of these, but it may be the most urgent.
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How Modern Data Platforms Help with Regulatory Compliance
A business must be able to locate records quickly and reliably in order to comply with many of the regulations governing how consumer data may be collected, maintained and used.
Ryan O’Leary, research director for privacy and legal technology at IDC, says that IT leaders are overwhelmed by both the sheer volume of information they must manage and the number of data silos throughout their organizations.
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“We’re creating more data every day,” O’Leary says. “And organizations that have been around a while have systems that are almost like Frankenstein, all pieced together. You also now have all these people working remotely, storing various data on their laptops or endpoints or shared drives. It can be difficult to get a handle on where everything is, what it is and who’s accessing it, and you need to know all of those things to stay in compliance.”
The challenge is becoming more acute as international regulators ramp up the number and nature of demands consumers can make on businesses that hold their data. For example, the so-called “right to be forgotten,” empowering consumers to demand that a business delete any shred of data it has on them, is gaining popularity with regulators concerned about privacy.
“If I’m a business, and somebody issues a right-to-be-forgotten request and wants me to delete their records from our systems, I’m not necessarily going to know where all of that data is unless I have a modern data platform,” Washburn says. “It’s going to be like looking for my keys.”
Source: Gartner, “The State of Data and Analytics Governance: IT Leaders Report Mission Accomplished; Business Leaders Disagree,” December 2021
Building the Modern Data Platform
Marcolis says that the process of building a modern data platform should begin with an honest assessment of existing technologies, processes and challenges. “Most organizations struggle to have those conversations internally, so they bring in a third party,” he says. “By the time we leave, there is a roadmap with achievable milestones, and customers are more educated about the decisions they need to make.”
O’Leary says he takes a more “general” view of the modern data platform, defining it simply as the set of technologies that store an enterprise’s data. However, he says, it’s critical that organizations strategically adopt technologies that will help them achieve visibility into their data stores and comply with data protection regulations — and to create processes that ensure best practices are followed over time.
O’Leary says that data discovery and classification solutions are the foundation of any modern data platform effort. He also advises that organizations look into platforms designed specifically for data privacy and compliance.
“The most important thing is to make sure that these solutions are part of a cohesive strategy, and not just a Band-Aid,” he says.
UP NEXT: How organizations can earn customers’ trust by safeguarding their privacy.
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