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Data Management

What’s Stopping Your Organization’s Data Sharing Culture?

|Chief Scientist

The concept of data ownership makes many organizations nervous. It’s unsurprising that companies are cautious about sharing data throughout their departments or with their consumers. What some might consider a reasonable defensive strategy is strangling these organizations’ growth and operations.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

In this post, we explore why so many companies are hesitant about data sharing, the problems that causes, and the benefits of promoting a positive data sharing culture.

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The Fear of Sharing Data

While everyone uses data in some capacity during their workday, there is so much going on behind the scenes that many organizations are wary about sharing the data. Fear of misuse and privacy concerns to lax user policies resulting in security breaches; there are multiple factors that feed into people’s unwillingness to handle data properly.

Though this list is not exhaustive, here are a few of the main reasons people shy away from data sharing.

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Poor Data Literacy

Simply put, data users often don’t understand what they’re working with. They see the data but don’t know how it’s stored, why queries work the way they do, what data is valuable, or how to keep it safe. This lack of understanding takes many forms: weak passwords, sharing sensitive information through unsecured channels to the wrong people, having privileges and access to files they shouldn’t – and the list goes on.

Moreover, there is a general unwillingness to learn and understand data literacy beyond the bare minimum. Unfortunately, reading data at its face value is not the same as understanding how to interact with it properly. Instead of taking the time to do so, most organizations with this problem choose to ignore it or delegate it solely to the database managers.

Ineffective, Inefficient, or Non-Existent Security Policies

Data illiteracy then affects an organization’s ability to create useful data security and governance policies. Without strong data governance, ownership, and the security to keep it all safe, data gets lost, corrupted, or – in the worst cases – stolen. Instead of outlining even a basic security policy, many organizations don’t bother, opting to keep the data accessible to very few people or with very few details, hindering efficiency.

Slow to Apply Access Control

Access control implementation is another common point of failure for companies that fear data sharing. Rather than identifying who should have access to what data, organizations might skip this step altogether by providing sweeping access regardless of individual positions or data needs. As you can imagine, this rigid policy isn’t very helpful to any user.

Too Many Users with Too Many Privileges

Organizations that fear data sharing will compensate for their lack of user access by granting some users too many privileges. This might be a group of executives or everyone in the IT department who has unlimited access to the database – an especially dangerous move if those granted such privileges have poor data literacy or their accounts become compromised. The rationale is usually that the people given these privileges are trustworthy and can disseminate information to others rather than give users the right amount of privileges.

Misidentified or Non-Existent Data Ownership

Some companies will forego identifying data owners and individuals are reluctant to serve as data owners out of concern for accountability or liability. However, data ownership is an important factor in determining who should safeguard the quality of your organization’s data and identifying experts to develop policies to better use, update, and manage data.

Lack of Trust Within the Company

Ultimately, the fear of data sharing within a company stems from a culture that lacks trust. Departments hoard data from one another, afraid that sharing information with one another could cause leaks or, in a competitive internal environment, be used to affect budgets and resources.

Drawbacks of Poor Data Sharing Practices

Altogether the fear of sharing data has detrimental consequences on its own. There are even worse consequences for organizations that let this fear spread unchecked.

Data Sharing Fear Cripples Business Performance

If a business doesn’t share its data well – internally or externally – it risks setting up obstacles to growth. Keeping data hidden away without utilizing it properly is much like having a library filled with unread books; spending resources to build a database structure only not to use it is a money pit rather than an intended investment.

Wasted Resources

Databases are expensive to maintain and develop. Not using them properly by allowing data to flow to those individuals who require access to optimize business decisions making results in many business inefficiencies. Some of these inefficiencies include poor project efficiency, runaway overhead costs from ineffective management, and potential fines for compliance violations due to ignoring potential issues out of fear.

Ineffective Communication

Just as data sharing stems from a lack of trust among users and decision-makers, that distrust is a symptom of a greater problem that loops back onto itself, lack of communication. In turn, poor communication sows further distrust, making future communication even more difficult.

Benefits of an Excellent Data Sharing Culture

Instead of being fearful of data sharing, it’s better to be afraid of not sharing data well enough. If your organization suffers from a culture of data distrust, here are a few reasons why you should consider being more open and thoughtful about data sharing:

Generates Internal and External Business Value

As Gartner and their analysts have mentioned, businesses that “share data externally generate three times more measurable economic benefit than those that do not.” Sharing data, whether within or outside your organization, builds trust among users which, in turn, builds authority with your customers (enticing them to buy more from you) and encourages collaboration with team members (increasing their productivity).

Effective Communication and Use of Resources

Just as hoarding data is a sign of distrust and fear, knowing how to share data is a sign of good communication. All of the problems we’ve outlined that stem from miscommunication – a lack of accountability, ignoring problems, etc. – disappear when teams can work and share data with one another. In doing so, inefficiencies are addressed, which means less time, money, and energy goes to waste.

Better, More Transparent Security Policies

Transparency is a core value of great data sharing culture, including security policies. Internally, this means security policies are regularly audited, refreshed, and updated as teams are more willing to talk with one another and brainstorm solutions to common problems. Externally, users can see how much your organization cares about safeguarding their data, further building trust.

Better Data Privacy

Though it might seem counterintuitive that more data sharing also means more privacy, a willingness to touch and work with the data increases data literacy. That, in turn, helps decision-makers determine factors like access control, user privileges, encryption, masking, and other security measures that ensure sensitive data is only seen and used by the people who need it.

How Satori Can Help Create Great Data Sharing Practices

Satori can help companies overcome the fear of sharing data by providing easy-to-implement data ownership components. Satori enables the definition of clear data ownership and stewardship and easily applied security policies.

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About the author
|Chief Scientist

Ben is an experienced tech leader and book author with a background in endpoint security, analytics, and application & data security. Ben filled roles such as the CTO of Cynet, and Director of Threat Research at Imperva. Ben is the Chief Scientist for Satori, the DataSecOps platform.

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