Data Strategy & Privacy at The Yext Onward ’18 Conference in New York

Yext throws probably the most compelling conference in digital knowledge. Heck, it’s probably the best conference in New York this year. With headliners like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Dr. Hannah Fry, and David Blaine, there was some solid star power that captured the essence of the conference: Knowledge is Power.

On day two, we had the opportunity to present to the audience on “Data Strategy in a Privacy World,” and I must say, the venue was incredible. One audience member was kind enough to share this photo:

Ward PLLC onstage at Onward18

Jay Ward was in Brussels at this time at International Conference of Data Protection & Privacy Commissioners, so it was only I onstage this time. Nevertheless, the audience was engaged and, to some degree, a bit nervous. While everyone in Brussels was listening to Tim Cook chastise the Data Industrial Complex, we were talking through the real efforts and issues facing businesses in constructing data strategies that work well given the push around the world for more privacy controls and governance.

Great talk… a little scary… but great!” was the general sentiment I received, and here’s why. Being DataSmart and using a methodology to build your data strategy requires a re-alignment of your thinking. Your products, services, and internal management all must align to the understanding that data is information given (literally from the Latin; Do, Dare, Datum: [thing] given) most often by a person. This means that your business model must treat the data like personal information in many cases, where typically, Western business models have looked past this critical viewpoint.

For many businesses, the data strategy has been “keep everything” which, in theory, made sense so long as tracking the data and storing it continued to cost less and less with each new development cycle and hardware evolution. The problem now is that you can’t keep every piece of data about your customers or readers or visitors without also creating a liability of protecting that data from all threats of misuse, both internal and external. The value of data is shifting from the marginal increase in revenue obtained from a source of data to the legal, regulatory, and reputational marginal risk given storage and misuse of a source of data.

Needless to say, this is a scary turn of events for many U.S. companies. While Jay was in Brussels celebrating the 40th (yes, forty years) conference on data privacy and protection in Europe, most companies in the audience at the Yext conference are just now realizing this change in valuation of their data from revenue growth to revenue risk. That’s not to say they are ignorant to data protection and security, because these are some of the most sophisticated companies in the world. But I can state that moving from a “keep everything” mindset to a “what really matters” one is just beginning.

CJW Onward Stage 2018
Love that the backdrop says “On Ward 18” – kinda

We would like to thank Yext for this excellent opportunity to speak with their audience. Further, I would point out that Yext’s model of empowering companies to control the data around the world about them, is a very close harbinger of things to come in many other industries. Recall that most data privacy laws and regulations have the concept of identifying what data is held about a person so that they may update, correct, or control its use and distribution. This is exactly the model at Yext, but for business entities, not individuals.

Conferences on data management, knowledge, AI, ML, and Big Data are all dealing with privacy and the path forward. We were honored for the opportunity to engage that dialogue this year at Onward18.

*Disclosure: Christian Ward previously worked for Yext as their EVP of Data Partnerships globally.

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