April 27th 2020 – By Anna Cotton

Data as a business asset? How to positively reframe the view of data in your organisation.

Organisations the world over are talking about big data analytics and the potential it has to improve business and provide a competitive edge.

And yet according to the 2019 Big Data and AI Executive Survey, 53% of organisations state that they haven’t reframed the view of data as a business asset and are not treating it as such. The percentage of data-driven organisations is declining year-on-year from 37.1% in 2017, to 32.4% in 2018 to 31.0% this year.


In our most recent roundtable event, which was attended by data security specialists from leading UK companies, the general consensus was that data just can’t shake its reputation for being a risk. Summarised by our CEO, Danny Reeves, he said:

“What I’m hearing is that [data] is still very much driven by security. Fear and risk are driving that. Very often organisations don’t know what they can do with their data. They don’t know what questions to ask to start the debate.”

One of the conclusions from the event is that more needs to be done to raise its profile within an organisation so data is seen as a business asset. But to achieve this we need:

  • The CISO to both secure the perimeter and protect data at the source.
  • The CIO to take ownership for improving collaboration between disparate teams to get everyone pulling in the same direction when it comes to data.
  • The DPO to help the organisation to make good decisions about data.

Download the report in full: “The great data conflict

But changing the perception of data as a business asset isn’t that simple

The strategic value of data as a business asset versus the risk it poses is a dilemma that many organisations have been wrestling with for years. And ultimately, the conversation is always dominated by privacy and security because that’s what keeps people awake at night.

We all know the saying: “It’s not ‘if’ you experience a breach, but ‘when’.”

We know it’s coming. We can’t stop it. It is inevitable.

But that doesn’t mean that we sit back and do nothing. Quite the contrary. Every day we fight to protect our business and that which we hold most sacred – our data. 

There are regulations in place, like GDPR, which force organisations to be accountable for the information that’s within their data estate. In reality though, good data management is just best practice, ensuring the business is protected and its assets secure.

The trouble is, that most organisations know that no matter what they do, their business is left exposed in the process of running business-as-usual – that’s people simply trying to get their job done fast and not adhering to data protection policies in the way you’d like them to.

This creates risky data, which is why data governance and information security people lie awake at night, and why the data conversation continues to revolve around security and risk.

Using data to power and protect

Whether you’re a new market innovator using technology to disrupt the market, or a traditional organisation forced to change and become data-driven in order to survive in the modern world, every company is now a data company.

Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, we believe that organisations should put data at the centre of what they do to protect and power their business and the people they serve – it’s all about keeping data safe and realising its value at the same time.

The reality is that framing data as a business asset makes it look far more attractive to the business because of the opportunity it presents, which is why it unlocks conversations across the organisation and gains you access to budget.

“We need to move [data] from a risk, where the conversation is about storage and IT, to a business asset, where the conversation is about opportunity and advantage.”

Senior information management specialist for a large fintech organisation

Quoted in The great data conflict

The ICO agrees:

“It is not a case of big data ‘or’ data protection, or big data ‘versus’ data protection. That would be the wrong conversation. Privacy is not an end in itself, it is an enabling right. Embedding privacy and data protection into big data analytics enables not only societal benefits such as dignity, personality and community, but also organisational benefits like creativity, innovation and trust. In short, it enables big data to do all the good things it can do.”

We see it more within organisations that have mature privacy programmes. Here, they’ve gone through the process of really understanding the data they have in order to reach maturity across the organisation. With their framework well-established, they have the confidence to use their data to deliver business value.

It’s championed by the business

While most organisations will have a dedicated CISO, CIO and DPO, each responsible for a different element of the company’s security posture, when it comes to data is a business asset, where the value is distilled into actionable insight, a new champion is needed. And that champion can come from a number of teams, depending on your business sector.

For example, in retail the customer success function will most often push new ways to drive consumer loyalty and spend, while the R&D function of a technology company may push innovation, and in financial services it could be marketing looking at ways to cross-sell and upsell new products in their portfolio.

It is these roles that can drive organisations to become more data-centric because they see the value of data as an asset and how it can be used to power the organisation forward. But what they need is the security and backing of their internal specialists – the CISO, CIO and DPO – to ensure the organisation remains protected when they’re investing in the technology and initiatives that enable them to distil the value locked within their data.

To find out more about how to positively reframe the view of data in your organisation, watch our webinar “Juggling data priorities”.

In there webinar you’ll hear from one of our guests at the roundtable discussion, the European DPO for a bank specialising in wholesale assets. She discusses how to secure, protect and exploit the value in your data.

Click to listen to what she had to say…