Actions you should take now
1. Ensure adequate data security safeguards to deal with the new ways of working
Home-working materially increases the risk of data privacy breaches and data loss, and the National Cyber Security Centre has reported an unprecedented increase in cyber security threats. You should assess information security controls to ensure their adequacy, especially with regard to collaboration platforms. Check compliance of all staff with data privacy and security training, and increase network surveillance and your capacity to tackle cyber emergencies.
2. Review implications for GDPR and data privacy compliance
The European Data Protection Board has issued a statement on processing personal data in the context of COVID-19. Where firms are collecting additional data from their employees or customers, this needs to be for legitimate reasons – such as obligations relating to health and safety at the workplace – or otherwise in the public interest. Data privacy notices may need to be updated in such cases and you should seek advice on the legal and technical implications.
3. Monitor the impact on sourcing and quality of critical data elements (CDEs), and strengthen your data governance
There is a continued risk of service disruption from custodians, administrators and other third parties. Operational issues may result in data quality errors. Internal data supply-chains will also be disrupted. Data owners should monitor sourcing and quality of critical data and take mitigation actions. Review SLAs and engage pro-actively with third-parties to address concerns. If you have a documented data lineage, use it to quickly identify the most risk-prone areas of the data landscape, and establish targeted tactical controls and tactical monitoring to spot issues early.
4. Deliver tactical outcomes using existing tooling
Many regulators now require daily reporting of potential liquidity risks. Government fiscal changes may have significant finance and tax implications. Businesses need to review product ranges and understand customer impacts. In all these areas, data scientists are at a premium, so you may deploy your people to work directly with impacted teams to create short-term tactical solutions using existing tooling. If so, ensure that these are documented suitably and sandboxed in your controls environment, set a date to review/retire, and use the opportunity to identify data quality (DQ) gaps.
5. Keep the long-term opportunity in mind as you re-assess your change portfolio
In a period of economic shock and subsequent contraction, it is natural and appropriate to review planned and in-flight change programmes. However, programmes ought not to be stopped which will contribute to a long-term improvement in your organization’s ability to grow revenues, manage risk or reduce cost. You may consider re-prioritizing programmes to ensure that tangible business benefits are delivered quickly and regularly to ensure continued senior leadership support, and you should articulate clearly how these programmes support the business strategy.
6. Plan for sustained, high rates of staff absence
Even before COVID-19, data teams were particularly impacted by the forthcoming IR35 rules on contractors. On top of this, there is still a real risk of a much more significant outbreak of the virus causing widespread sickness. You may wish to arrange contingent arrangements with consultancies and vendors to provide resource augmentation should it become necessary. Consider how technology provision and on-boarding can be prepared in advance to accelerate this.
7. Don’t miss out on key government support, including tax rebates on technology R&D
Governments around the world have made significant fiscal commitments to support organizations through COVID-19, but you should also consider existing programmes. The UK R&D Tax Relief scheme provides an effective relief rate of up to 10.5% for large companies on applicable development spend, including consultants’ fees and necessary software licenses. This may significantly improve cost-benefit assessments as you consider the value of investing in data.