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The Future Equation of Data: domain experts weigh in

What does the future of data look like? On the 10th of May three domain experts gathered for our dinner event ‘Protect + personalize = profit. The future equation of data’. We carefully selected the panel to represent the government, the vendor side and advertising. Curious? Here are the best quotes and insights. Dig in!

Protect + personalize = profit. The Future Equation of Data

A panel discussion with:

  • Jellert Dekeyser - Global Director Digital & E-commerce at TVH 
    “Transparency and flexibility are key in convincing customers to share their data.”
  • Eva De Bleeker - State Secretary for Budget and Consumer Protection 
    “Informing consumers about the value and importance of their personal data is a priority”
  • Laura McHenry - VP Marketing EMEA at Tealium
    “Instead of gathering data and then deciding what to do with it, start from a business strategy.”

How to deal with privacy regulations

What is the biggest challenge in Belgium today when it comes to data protection and privacy?

Eva De Bleeker: "Data can and should be used to improve the lives of the people. But we live in a free market, so regulation is needed to protect the consumer. Most importantly: all actors should be informed. Many consumers are still not aware of how much data is collected, or where it’s going. That’s a big challenge for the government."

"Affiliate marketing is a good example. When somebody enters an online contest or accepts a promo deal, they give up some personal information. Little do they know that this data is then sold to third parties for advertising purposes. All of this data become vulnerable to abuse. Companies need to inform consumers about this. Our job as a government is to intervene if the economic inspection detects fraud. Because that’s what this is. It’s not because you can buy data from third parties, that you are authorized to do with it whatever you want."

How does TVH deal with the complexity of privacy regulation?

Jellert Dekeyser: "TVH is a global company, which means we have to follow over 100 different privacy acts. In Europe there’s GDPR, but the US has a whole different framework, which often differs between states as well. This makes privacy a very complex topic. Of course, compliance is the basic requirement, but we follow one guiding principle in every country: privacy by design."

"Every time we start a new project, privacy concerns are included from the very start and throughout the project. And of course, flexibility is important as well. Users should be able to determine their own preferences, and we are looking at new technologies like privacy management systems to enable this even further. Providing transparency and ownership is crucial to convince customers to share their data."

How to offer value to consumers

Laura, as a vendor, how can you convince customers to share data?

Laura McHenry: "The most important thing is to give value in return. Consumers are willing to share their data if they see the benefit. It has the power to significantly improve CX, if it’s done transparently."

"For instance, there’s a health insurance company in the UK that offers clients a free Fitbit. The data is then shared between these two companies. Now imagine if you could expand a project like this. What if your healthcare provider had access to the data as well, and could check your physical status? Or what if your shoe provider knows you have a sprained ankle, so you’re looking for comfortable shoes instead of high heels?"

"These are examples of how you can offer incredible added value to customers, as long as you’re transparent about which data you’re collecting and who you’re sharing it with. It’s all about improving the lives of customers."

New technologies

Do you believe in new technologies like self-sovereign identity (SSI)?

Jellert Dekeyser: "It’s definitely something we’re looking into. I’m a big believer of being the owner of your own data. At TVH we want to avoid access management solutions like logging in with your Google profile, because this means sharing data with a third party. If a customer wants to share data with us, it should only be with us."

Eva De Bleeker: "I think self-sovereign identity is a really good idea. Now we have to analyze if it’s feasible, and if the change of mindset can happen. An added advantage of such solutions is fighting fraud. Phishing is a big problem nowadays. We get more and more reports every day of people receiving messages or emails that appear to be from the bank or the phone company, but are actually fraudulent ways of gathering data."

"Now imagine you would have an app where you control your own data. This app could be used to check the credentials of any party requesting data before you share it. It could be a good solution to put a safeguard between the consumer and the party collecting the data."

“Self-sovereign identity could be used to check the credentials of any party requesting data before you share it.” – Eva De Bleeker (State Secretary for Budget and Consumer Protection)

Laura McHenry: "I think SSI is the future, not only to get a better grip on regulation but also in private businesses. But for me, it’s not only a matter of following regulations. I believe companies have the responsibility of following an ethical standard, regardless of official rules. If you’re operating in a country that has limited regulation, that doesn’t mean you should start spamming away."

The technological landscape is growing and changing very quickly. There are thousands of data tools and solutions today. How does a company like TVH deal with this?

Jellert Dekeyser: "We definitely see roles like technology experts and application managers becoming more important. We look at the technological landscape as bringing new capabilities. We usually look at tech to answer predefined use case, but I like to challenge that idea. Emerging technologies can also bring new opportunities we didn’t have a use case for. But it’s also important to have a solid core. Starting from a sturdy ERP, everything that you build on top can bring new possibilities."

How does Tealium look at all that competition? For the CDP (customer data platform) business alone, there are dozens of solutions.

Laura McHenry: "I think competition breeds innovation. We’re keeping an eye on other solutions, of course, but we’re focused on carving our own way. This rapid growth of tools is a great evolution. For Tealium alone, we have over 1500 prebuilt integrations with other solutions. New technologies mean more data points, more channels to communicate with customers. So this evolving landscape is definitely a good thing."

“New technologies mean more data points, more channels to communicate with customers.” – Laura McHenry

The war for talent

Another challenge is the need for new skills and the war for talent. How does your company cope with this challenge, Jellert?

Jellert Dekeyser: "We have a sort of hybrid structure. We work with centers of excellence, and apply a data democratization model. The experts lend their services and insights to departments that need them. It’s a collaborative system where we try to maximize the impact of our data scientists and engineers throughout the company, and at the same time use the data we have as best as we can."

Laura McHenry: "When going through a digital transformation, you should first consider people and skills, then the right processes, and only then should you look at the technology. Tech is not the silver bullet: don’t just buy the tools and then think everything will sort itself out."

Eva De Bleeker: "The government needs the right skills as well of course. Data scientists, cyber security specialists… These profiles are increasingly hard to find. But I see a positive evolution in our education system. From secondary education to universities: the evolution to science-based degrees is already happening. And I’m a big advocate for guiding more women into tech as well. Luckily, the government is also investing in the promotion of STEM-education for girls from a young age."