This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle four: protecting data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.


Here is the Fourth of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, based on Dialog’s recent research.

While the last post discussed getting your own house in order around protecting customer data, equally important is protection of that data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.

Consumers regularly agree to share data with a particular organization for immediately known purposes – a purchase transaction, registering for a site or service, downloading an app. There is an abstract understanding that their data is shared. But the specifics of with whom, how and for what are vague to all but the most attentive, usually those who work in a marketing capacity. I recently heard a statistic that a data broker will have about 1500 pieces of information on an average individual! I didn’t know there could be 1500 things about me to be tracked. Who knew I was so interesting?

This vague concept of ‘they have all of my data’ is unsettling, leaving people feeling powerless and hoping that nothing harmful will befall as a result. It is perhaps the greatest area of concern for our study respondents. Legal requirements are normally that the data owner has bottom line responsibility (read that the one who could be sued in a breach), so it behooves you as a data collector to integrate strict data management terms into your third party contracts.

But beyond that, it’s how the data is used and monetized – and we all know this is the holy grail of marketing – that respondents find troubling. One respondent noted that “3rd party access to my search history is completely inappropriate.” Another noted that “if you got my data from somewhere else, tell me where you got it from.” Some of the other concerns expressed included not allowing an individual’s identity or data given for one perceived purpose to be used by entities that have control over other parts of their lives – insurance, credit, employers, housing, civil litigation, healthcare providers, surveillance or profiling, divorce court, political parties, or the news media, except as allowed by law. Data collectors should therefore carefully consider legal requests vs. legal requirements.

One suggestion was to have and observe universal standards on collection and distribution of sensitive and potentially harmful medical and financial information. There are already laws about these domains, but data analytics can get pretty accurate at some of these situations using other non-regulated data.

But some respondents also took a Buyer Beware stance, saying that data voluntarily given and captured through public means is there for the taker, and consumers can always choose not to participate in a transaction. Better to educate people about what is being harvested about them and how it is used. Perhaps improving privacy policies would be a good start. But it can be challenging to get that message across when data is handed off to anonymous 3rd parties whose very existence or purposes are unknown to average people.

With the Internet of Things, this situation will grow exponentially, creating further issues of securing data at the points of collection, transfer and curation x 1000 – and the implications for Big Data crunching that will come from it. Bottom line – mind your partners. Privacy protections need to be contractually obligated with third parties, but prudence dictates you avoid sharing with those who perpetrate the creep factor, especially when contributions can be traced back to you.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In part three of her Engaging Your Total Enterprise Series, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. shares ways to gain the best human capital management skills.


Managing human capital as a resource is like assembling a kind of jigsaw puzzle using talent for pieces and a strategic plan for the box top. If you want results, you need the best human capital management skills possible. You either have these skills or you hire expert skills. The experts either provide a short-term infusion or become embedded in your organization to uphold the human capital endeavor. No matter how well you manage human capital or how you choose to incorporate the process into your business, human capital strategy is doomed to be just one more plan— indeed, just one more empty ritual—unless it plays out in a vibrant cultural dialogue that motivates, inspires, and magnifies greatness in all your people.

As you devise a human capital strategy, you are aiming for the multipliers. You want to plan for the ineffable quality that gets you to a sum of five when you start with two and two. What is that? The best human capital management professional may have theories, but ultimately no one individual can provide that surprise extra, the multiplier. That’s because people magnify each other. As the Hawthorne Studies found in the early twentieth century, bonding among people has a magnifying effect on productivity and even a quotient of happiness. These days, the team may entirely co-locate in the same office or be connected across time zones and continents. It doesn’t matter whether people share projects or knowledge. What matters is that they share the dialogue and exchange the ideas. They thrive in the dynamic. People in a successful dynamic do more in ways that are leaner, faster, better, and smarter. That’s exactly what you need in today’s economic climate.

We all see shifting environmental drivers, tumultuous innovations, and advancing technologies that can undermine a stable and able workforce. Human capital, that underpinning of all the production in an Ideas Economy, is itself churning and unpredictable. Human capital risks can manifest themselves in different ways. One is the sheer lack of knowledge and leadership depth across the organization. Or, there can be a protracted and unclear development path for entry and journey level staff. There can be poor alignment of talent to priorities and strategic objectives. One of the greatest risks is when nobody is talking to each other about possibility, knowing, and change.

So, your first question when it comes to your talent mix must be, “Do I have enough of the right people in the right places performing the right work at the right time?” The immediate follow-up question must be, “Will I have that in five years?” My answer to either question is another question. “Who’s talking about what?” There’s one proven way to make sure the dialogue in your business isn’t idle chatter or bitter grievance motivated by boredom.  It’s collaboration. Of course, collaboration, while an art in itself, still relies on the baseline art of dialogue where business is concerned. In the end, whatever drives the conversations that magnify the potential greatness of your team is exactly what you want people to be discussing.

Steve Case, most widely known as co-founder of America Online and retired chairman of AOL Time Warner, spoke at an NVTC Titans Breakfast that I attended.  That morning, I was inspired when I heard him say that his focus is to “invest in people and ideas that can change the world.”  So the question for you remains: Are you prepared to be a dynamic partner? Are you ready to partner with your employees, your vendors, your investors, and your community? If so, that’s excellent! You’re setting yourself up to thrive in the future economic realities, which are upon us already.

Are you tentative about launching a human capital strategy initiative with so many priorities competing for your time and attention? If so, here are some questions for quiet contemplation:

  1. Is an effective performance management system in place and understood by all employees?
  2. Do employees have knowledge of the results their actions produce?
  3. Do we have a full complement of strategies to initiate, direct, and sustain desired individual and team behavior?
  4. Do we have enough of the right people in the right places performing the right work at the right time? Will we in five years?
  5. How many key people are likely to retire or leave in the next five years?
  6. What strategies will entice my best people to stay?
  7. Are we motivating staff with career paths?

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