Six things we learnt this year that changes data strategy in 2021


No-one could have predicted that 2020 would be so disruptive to organisations the world over. But whether that impact was positive or negative, as we spy 2021 on the horizon, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the lessons learned and how they can be applied to strengthen strategies for the year ahead…

Lesson 1: Miracles do happen!

When lockdown commenced back in the spring, organisations were forced to enact new ways of working overnight. For many larger enterprises, this meant enabling hundreds, or thousands, of employees to work from home, able to access and share data – including across countries – while still retaining their security profile.

This sort of feat would usually be a large digital transformation project in its own right, and yet many organisations completed the challenge in 2-3 weeks with minimal disruption to business-as-usual.

Lesson 2: The security agenda

When organisations enacted their new ways of working, the focus was on maintaining business-as-usual. Security was often an afterthought. We’re now starting to see security back on the boardroom agenda as questions are asked about what employees are doing with the data? How they’re accessing it? Where they’re storing it?

The ICO will become far more stringent about enforcing the legislation, which means 2021 is sure to be the year when investigations increase exponentially. Unless data protection and privacy are tackled as business priorities, we expect many companies to hit the headlines with record fines for non-compliance.


Lesson 3: Customers are king

While the need to enable a remote workforce was strong, the more compelling driving force behind strategies in 2020 was the customer. The organisation may have changed the way it worked, but the customer had the same demands of them – they still needed access to their data and the subject access requests continued to be made.

Furthermore, with many customers falling into hardship, the principles of ‘treating customers fairly’ because important. Here, data played a key role, helping organisations to demonstrate thought leadership and find better ways of supporting those customers in need to weather the storm.

In 2021, we expect to see these loyalties rewarded with organisations experiencing greater customer retention rates, renewals and referrals.

Lesson 4: Remote working risks

2020 was the year that collaboration tools, like Microsoft 365 and Teams, came into their own. But while these tools are essential for keeping organisations connected and employees productive, for information security professionals they’re a nightmare come true.

Collaboration tools make it so easy to create new content. And with documents all over the place it’s hard to keep track of all that new data. Plus, the huge rise in video content adds a new dimension of how to secure and analyse this new source of data.

Of course, these tools are updated regularly, but if the security patches are missed, or users aren’t aware of a change, it can leave the business exposed and vulnerable.

2020 was the year we saw digital transformation accelerated. And while a good thing for the modern workplace, 2021 will be the year Information Security teams in organisations will invest in finding and protecting their data, including the unstructured, to protect from external and insider risks.

Lesson 5: Big cloud opportunity

There’s a cost pressure that comes with storing data that can’t be ignored. Organisations can spend a fortune on their data lakes despite not knowing what’s in them. In 2020, many organisations looked to the cloud as an opportunity to reduce their cost profile and bring products to market quicker, as well as support remote working.

When undertaking a cloud migration, it makes sense to cleanse the data first, which is going to naturally reduce those storage costs. But for some, this cleanse was the most exciting part of planning their cloud migration because they uncovered lost, forgotten or unknown data. And within that data lies endless possibilities to drive the business forward.

In 2021 we expect to see more organisations position data as an asset – showing the board that the same tools that can identify their risky data and ensure their compliance, can also identify critical data to drive the business forward.

Lesson 6: Data discovery drive

2020 forced organisations to take a hard look at their strategies. And for many, it’s been a wake-up call about the scale and complexity of the systems that are supposed to be the enablers for their business.

From the conversations and enquiries we’ve received since the beginning of the year, it’s clear that data discovery is increasingly being viewed as a critical tool for success in our digital and data-driven world.

Able to help organisations cleanse their data quickly and effectively, data discovery tools will naturally make cloud migrations simpler, as well as reducing the risk of problem data, and driving down the costs of storing data unnecessarily.

Furthermore, with a single view of all their data, organisations can start to distil the value that’s locked within their estate. With full visibility of data at scale, organisations can apply business intelligence tools and start to connect the dots to make informed decisions about what to do next.

With a holistic view of the customer journey, the ability to quickly identify operational inefficiencies, or the capabilities to reveal opportunities to improve the user experience, data discovery tools help put organisations in a competitive position.

As the economy picks up in 2021, data as an enabler will be crucial for organisations wanting to differentiate and identify new opportunities to upsell/cross-sell to their customers.

The data vision beyond 2021 ...

The best technologies almost seem to ‘disappear’ because they become so ingrained, and part of our lives that we no longer notice them.

So wouldn’t it be nice if we could get to a point where no-one talks about data discovery anymore, because it’s the de facto enabler of business success?

In that future it would mean that data discovery was intrinsic in all systems, which would mean all data was visible and accessible to those who need it. In that world, data would protect and power organisations and the people they serve.

The ‘nirvana’ of data discovery will be when organisations can just upload data to any system, and know it’s classified and stored in the right place with all the right security surrounding it.

To see that happen in 2021 might be a bit of a stretch – but then as we know, miracles do happen!

Find out how the world’s leading data discovery software product can help you use what’s valuable and govern what’s sensitive.