What lies in store for businesses in Europe over the next 12 months? I make the following predictions:
Data privacy will hit home in the connected world
The connected world has infiltrated our lives, both at home and at work. The consumerisation of IT is causing a blurring between the worlds of what’s personal and what’s business – and rising numbers of online tools and social networks are making it increasingly easy to share and exchange information.
It presents a big opportunity for businesses to utilise big data to understand their customers better, however this also presents a conundrum when it comes to asking ‘how much is too much information
Although the older generation is generally more cautious about how much information they reveal, today’s youth is sharing everything they do, at every moment of the day via social networks. As thousands of consumers are sharing more of their identity online, for businesses in 2012 the matter of data privacy will continue to shake up process and protocol.
With increasing volumes of intelligence on consumers now available, brands must tread a very fine line when it comes to what data they gather and how they manage it, to avoid overstepping the mark or making critical errors. And, over time, consumers must begin to consider the extent of the information that they are truly prepared to share with organisations. It’s still a very grey area, which in the coming 12 months will require some extensive exploration.
Businesses set to get regulator-savvy
With regulatory bodies under pressure to up their game in 2012, companies will continue to feel the sting of hefty fines unless they address the challenges they face when it comes to protecting data- whether in the cloud or on premise. Poor management of customer data, resulting in errors, loss and theft will continue to be a stumbling block unless organisations make themselves equipped to deal with it.
With regulators set to continue to wage war against businesses failing to implement the right information management procedures, businesses must act quickly to ensure they aren’t in the firing line for a hefty fine.
Measures are beginning to be put in place to address this challenge. Solvency II, for example, aims to establish a revised set of EU-wide capital requirements and risk management standards that will replace the current solvency requirements.
The directive is due to come into full effect in late 2012 and will allow companies to leverage value by integrating their corporate governance, risk management and regulatory compliance. In 2012, the focus across all sectors on improved information governance and regulatory compliance will continue to intensify.
Keeping up with cloud
Cloud computing will continue to change the way we do business. But next year, Europe has some catching up to do, as rates of adoption have been slow in comparison to the US. The year ahead will see an upturn in cloud adoption, driven by the need for organisations to be more agile, as well as the need to cut costs.
With existing IT frameworks often made up of data siloes, cloud technology can help create a dynamic architecture to accommodate any data, in any location. Businesses who want to respond and act faster in today’s economic climate have to look to the cloud if they haven’t already.
After all, the challenge for cloud adoption until now has been inertia, and many businesses have therefore not gained the benefits cloud computing can offer. Organisations need to be aggressive, but smart as they make the move to the cloud.
The mobile accelerator
Mobile technology will be the accelerator for a number of important industry trends in 2012. Over the years we’ve seen mobile functionality escalate at lightning speed – the last ten years alone has seen mobile subscribers increase from one to an anticipated six billion worldwide by the end of November in 2011. Not only is the number of mobile handsets still on the rise, but what we do with them is now contributing hugely to the data flood.
With more and more organisations implementing ‘bring your own’ device initiatives in a bid to lower IT spend while supporting flexible working practices, keeping control of corporate data will continue to become a big pressure point for businesses. Ensuring that the right data management practices are in place to ease the pain of this fragmented information access will be critical to helping companies maintain control of company data.
Social media driving the information explosion
Social media is one in a long line of industry trends to fuel this data torrent, adding a new dimension to the challenge for businesses when managing the exponential growth of information. With a myriad of data types to handle, an increase in merger and acquisition activity and an explosion of virtual technology initiatives, the task of protecting customer intimacy and maintaining meaningful customer interaction is set to become a much harder task for businesses in 2012.
The resulting challenge for businesses is two-fold. Firstly, the rise of this social media generation is fuelling an explosive growth of data. It means a big step up for brands when it comes to understanding consumers – both in terms of managing the stream of live data through social communities, and integrating it with ‘traditional’ data types. Secondly, it’s creating a landscape of fresh opportunity.
Organisations have a real opening to strike out beyond traditional approaches, implementing holistic brand strategies that incorporate proactive customer engagement, and timely sentiment analysis. In 2012, brands must act quickly to ride the social data wave, and extract the customer intelligence that simply wasn’t available before.