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Successful digital technology in the workplace needs data governance

The buzz about Amazon’s Alexa software being HIPAA eligible signals another step in the evolution of the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace. Like the Internet, voice-assisted technologies and other digital forms of communication disrupt the way we do things now and hold the promise of further enriching our experiences on the job as well as in our personal lives.

But it’s critical to understand the opportunities and challenges digital technology brings to the workplace, including existing compliance laws, the role of data governance in managing data security and privacy, best practices for implementing a data governance program and elements to include in crafting a data governance communication strategy.

8 Billion Assistants

According to Gartner, by 2021, 25% of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant (VEA) daily, and by 2023, 25% of employee interactions with applications will be by voice. Juniper Research, a market intelligence firm specializing in emerging markets with the digital ecosystem, predicts that 8 billion digital voice assistants will be in use by 2023.

The insurance and financial industries are currently expressing interest in piloting VEAs internally, and the healthcare and hospitality sectors are using virtual personal assistants for selected communication applications. The use of chatbots is growing with benefits technology experts predicting a 75% adoption rate by HR departments in large firms by 2020 - signaling that this type of digital communication technology is penetrating the workplace at a rapid pace.

Alexa’s HIPAA-compliant status gives Amazon the edge as a forerunner in the digital voice assistant e-commerce business, expected to reach $80 billion by 2023. Other key players that have or continue to evolve their voice technology applications for businesses include Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and Samsung.

Organizations are relying more and more on big data and digital technology to make business decisions, improve profitability, optimize operations, and create new products and services. Using these tools brings opportunities for compliance teams to develop best practices for data governance within the HR organization

Benefits administration

Among the current applications where digital technology is increasingly making inroads is benefits administration. Providing digital support tools to help employees make benefit choices specific to their needs, and the use of enhanced mobile applications to give them a “consumer” type of experience enhances the enrollment process.

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Developing intelligent communications strategies helps foster the use of wellness programs and drive behavioral change. Employers can offer workers access to information on a 24/7 basis, create personalized benefit plans, and provide a stress-free, highly satisfactory benefits engagement experience. This leads not only to greater employee attraction and retention, but to results-oriented outcomes and cost optimization benefits gained from leveraging digital technology and tools.

Talent management

Digital technologies will have the most impact in the adoption of AI for recruiting, internal communications, training and onboarding, data analytics, problem solving and productivity. It’s also being applied to preparing pre-trial legal strategies for employee-related lawsuits, while data analytics can assess pay equity practices to identify any discrepancies in compensation practices.

Risk management

Opportunities exist to establish sound data governance and data ethics programs in compliance with digital technology laws. The rise of RegTech (Regulatory Technology) in the financial services sector can give companies a competitive advantage in the marketplace through the adaption of machine learning, blockchain technology, and AI.

Successfully streamlining compliance processes and reporting requirements can save financial institutions as much as $8 billion per year according to Canadian Underwriter magazine. The application of RegTech technology to other business sectors opens up unlimited opportunities for managing risk and compliance that will generate savings and boost revenue growth.

Not Blinded to the Risks

But the road to transitioning to a smart company embracing all the bells and whistles digital technology promises is not without peril, especially as AI applications become more prevalent. Arnold J. Rosoff, professor emeritus of legal studies and health care management at Wharton, said it best during a discussion about Alexa and HIPAA compliance: “We have to be careful that our excitement about the positive potential doesn’t blind us to the risk.”

The biggest risk with digital technology is non-compliance with the laws and regulations designed to safeguard privacy and data security. Non-compliance can expose companies to economic loss and other intangible damage such as reputational harm.

In the United States, various federal laws and regulations govern privacy, security and communications, among them the FTC’s consumer protection laws, HIPAA, FERPA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

At the state level, laws provide consumer protections and govern privacy and security measures for internet security providers, security breaches, data security laws specific to the private sector in particular, California’s Consumer Privacy Act, leads the states in giving consumers control over their personal information and how it is used by companies conducting business in the state

Internationally, the General Data Protective Regulation (GDPR), effective May 25, 2018, regulates how companies must protect personal data of all European Union (EU) citizens. It covers data processing of personal information, anonymity in data collection to protect privacy, distribution of notifications to EU citizens when breaches occur, and protection of data in cross-border data transfer of personal information. It also requires certain firms to appoint a data protection officer to oversee GDPR compliance.

Finally, there are a number of self-regulatory groups, sometimes providing the only standards or guidance for regulating digital technology for mobile and wearable apps and devices, facial recognition and other AI-related applications. Risk Management professionals should start considering how various rules and standards impact technology innovation across the HR /Benefits enterprise.

Tips for Best Practices

Data Governance - Create a Practice, not a Project

With the increasing emphasis on data security, privacy, and compliance, data governance plays a key role in protecting data assets and managing risk. Many companies acknowledge the value of building a data governance program, but they get preoccupied with where to start, how much to invest in data governance initiatives, and who should lead the initiatives.

Assigning roles and responsibilities is essential to successful governance programs. The key players in a data governance model are teams at every level of the organization. Project Management, Regulatory and Compliance, Audit/Legal, Corporate Communications, and Human Resources professionals comprise the support level teams.

There are other best practices for implementing a data governance program: start small, set clear goals, define ownership, and identify roles and responsibilities. Integrate data governance as a way of doing business, making it a practice, not a project.

Make Data Governance Part of the Culture Now

Communicate: Successful data governance communication includes introducing the program early, using plain English and different communication channels (intranet, e-mail, town halls, internal social media), and communicating regularly about milestones reached.

A clear, well-planned communication strategy will boost data governance engagement by providing information that is shared and understood by everyone. This type of communication strategy will help promote the firm’s technology transformation by ingraining into the corporate culture the way data is used and safeguarded.

As technology takes hold in the workplace, it enriches the employee experience and enables companies to be more profitable. These benefits don’t come without risks. Data security and privacy take center stage and companies are required to comply with the many laws regulating how data is used, disclosed, and safeguarded or face the risk of costly penalties for breaches as well as reputational harm.

Implementing a sound data governance program with a well-planned communication strategy is one solution firms should consider to achieve a successful digital transformation.

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