The most recent analysis of the EU data law by the Direct Marketing Association predicts that it may cost UK companies £47bn in lost sales, but it may be even more damaging than that. The problem is there will be no hands on support to help with the complexities of the necessary data compliance process, and failure to comply means data being written off.
A recent survey by research company Vanson Bourne, reveals 68% of UK companies believe they will have to invest in professional assistance or technology support to prepare for the new regulation, and nearly half have allocated staff training budgets, but aside from purely IT provision, there is almost no support or training available. What is more there is no sign this situation is going to change before the law comes into force.
A cursory examination of the basic sums involved tells everything you need to know about the situation. There are more than 360,000 UK companies, plus charities and other organisations that need to prepare for the new law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Smaller companies that only use data for basics like keeping customer records for invoicing should be able to get by with compliance from guidance written and video guides, but for anything more complicated qualified consultancy or staff training will be needed.
The lack of support came to light after a presentation on GDPR by the Information Commissioners Office at the Direct Marketing Association HQ. There was a question on what would be available in terms of consultancy in preparing for the new law. The answer was next to nothing.
There are perhaps as many as 200 individuals that have the degree of sales and marketing data compliance experience and knowledge surrounding GDPR to be able to provide reliable assistance on the subject. Of that number most are committed to full time positions embedded within companies or other organisations. That leaves between 20 and 50 that can provide consultancy support, and the consensus is that the figure is much nearer to the 20 mark than the 50. That is extremely few given the scale of the challenge.
The research by Vanson Bourne is not alone in finding that data users will need direct support and training. Surveys by the EU, Information Commissioners Office, Direct Marketing Association, and even the Ministry of Justice identify the need and costs of appointing specialist data staff, training specialist consultancy. The cost predictions run to billions, except the reality is there is almost no way to invest in compliance preparation and there will not be for the foreseeable future.
There is no nobody training the would be trainers, or the would be data protection officers, or the would be consultants. In fact, there is more or less nobody to train anybody, and it is a big problem because compliance creates a series of technical tasks, each of which is a significant challenge in its own right. Non compliance means writing off data, or risking sanctions from the ICO that can run to eight figures, plus damage to reputation.
Some brand owners may assume that data suppliers will provide the support needed, but the majority are largely unprepared themselves and have their hands full trying to hang onto their own data.
There are IT suppliers that will be able to install or make the required changes to CRM systems, and there are a handful of legal practices that will provide detailed guidance on the law, but the real need is to be able refresh consumer opt in consent levels to the new standard, and create new data protocols that work for sales and marketing departments.
In the first quarter of next year we are due to receive the full details of GDPR, but so much of its contents have been revealed, and it has taken so long for the EU authorities to get to where they are now, that in order to get close to meeting the timetable for the introduction of the law there is no leeway to introduce anything new.
After publication of the final contents of the law there will be a two year gap to prepare. That sounds like a reasonably long time, but even with qualified assistance it will take some data users longer than that.
Written and video guides will be produced be the ICO and professional bodies, plus the Direct Marketing Association will be running information roadshows as an extension of its current compliance service, but sales and marketing departments need more than a set of instructions or a lecture, no matter how good.
There are no easy answers to preparing for the new law. Most are still delaying any sort of preparation, and will probably not address it until full publication at the end of March. The key thing is to take steps before that happens, research GDPR then interview and if possible find a consultant to appoint before it is too late. They will be very few available once the majority wake up to the compliance challenge. Relying on video and written guides is a risky game to play if data is considered an asset worth keeping.
By Dene Walsh, Operations and Compliance Director Verso Group, premier multi-channel lead generation and data provider delivering high quality, high impact sales leads that convert with velocity and ROI.