Wise council for difficult times in data world

With everything from the Electoral Register to data security facing new rules and restrictions, new chairman of the IDM Data Council Adrian Gregory explains why he remains optimistic about the future.

When you are a professional institution, delivering against some of your objectives is easier than others. So the focus of the Institute of Direct Marketing on the three Ds – Direct, Digital and Data – has given it a couple of tough targets. Fortunately, it is able to call on the services of some highly-skilled members to close the gap between objectives and achievements.

Adrian Gregory, chief executive of DQM Group, is the latest individual to slip into one of the hot seats, taking over as chairman of the IDM Data Council. He inherits a council in good condition, thanks to the three-year efforts of his predecessor Iain Lovatt, but facing some tough challenges.

Prime among them is the contraction of the public domain for data. “The edited Electoral Register is so important for data quality that its removal would have a very negative impact,” says Gregory. “There is also the impact of the edited Directors and Shareholders Register which is used for marketing likely to be an increasingly demanding regulatory, data security and permissions environment which marketers will need to thoroughly understand and adhere to in the future if their organisations are to compete and prosper.”

Both of these could look like lost causes and indicators of an increasingly negative working environment for data suppliers and users. But Gregory says: “I’m an optimist. I believe data is being recognised as so important in organisations that it is not just marketing who will be hit. We can argue that it will affect a vital coroporate asset.”

Individual members of the IDM Data Council represent British Gas, EDF, HSBC and BBC TV Licencing on the client side as well as Alterian, Callcredit and Royal Mail Data Services – major data users who can readily explain the business impact of removing key data sets from the market. One of the strengths of the IDM is that it is a membership body. If it needs to make a case to regulators or legislators, then it has some heavy hitters to call on.

Deciding how to tackle what could be a forbiddingly large agenda is Gregory’s first task at his inaugural meeting as chairman in September. “We need to look at our programme for the year ahead and make sure we put the time our members give us to good effect,” he says.

As well as looking outwards to the bigger picture, Gregory also wants to look inwards to ensure the IDM is keeping its core functions in line with market needs. As an academic and awarding body, it aims to send individuals out into the commercial world equipped with the right skills to tackle those three Ds.

Some of those skills have become more complex than before. “Kottler’s four Ps of marketing should be extended with at least three more – protection (data security), privacy and permissions. Marketers needs to know about the Data Protection Act inside out, which encompasses all three of these. Even so, the largest volume of calls to the DMA for legal services are about data protection and permissions,” he points out.

Gregory hopes to work closely with the IDM to review the data training modules and ensure that their content is fit for purpose around data protection, security and permissions management.

To help build resources that support the new data governance strategies being deployed in many organisations, Gregory’s business has recently introduced DataMeasures, which includes a free data benchmarking capability with the IDM’s seal of approval. One element of that service is a web service to exchange knowledge – something Gregory is keen to promote as part of the IDM’s individual-level remit.

It is a big to-do list for anybody, “One of the advantages of having your own business is that you can decide how to commit your time,” admits Gregory. With issues growing that time has never been in greater demand.

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