Engaging a partner for data categorization within an enterprise
Data is critical to the modern business enterprise. That is not to say that it has not been important in the past, but, in a free market, as the level of competition keeps rising in successful and sunrise sectors, the need for leveraging every bit of competitive advantage becomes more important to survival and success.
The business enterprise collects and stores large volumes of data. Every decision maker in the company ought to know and understand the data that is available with the company so that it can be put to the right use as and when the time comes.
This is the starting point for data categorization within an enterprise.
There could be regulatory reasons too. A new regulation designed to protect privacy of individuals may mandate enterprises to delete the Social Security number of all customers that they have so far been collecting. Even though regulatory changes cannot be anticipated, the systems that house data need to have the adaptability to respond in reasonable ways to them.
‘Data categorization’ is often used interchangeably with ‘data classification.’ Then there are others who seek to make a distinction between the two, using ‘data classification’ to refer to the overarching strategy for data which leads to the slotting of different pieces of data into ‘data categories.’ For the purpose of this discussion, we will consistently use the ‘data categorization’ to refer to all aspects of the activity.
Principles for effective data categorization within an enterprise
There is always a starting point for all efforts of an enterprise. In addition, there can be many reconsideration and review points. An existing policy or decision can be changed at any point of time if it is not working for the benefit of the business.
Business need should be paramount
Since this discussion is in the context of a business, or enterprise, it stands to reason that the need of the business overrides other considerations. While it may sound obvious to some, for others this may need articulation.
It, perhaps, also stands to reason that the people most conversant with setting the direction of the business should be involved, since one of the key goals of the exercise is to ensure availability of data for taking business decisions in future.
There will be many partners in the effort, including the IT team, since the modern enterprise relies on technology to process and store information. However, the direction should be provided by the business leaders.
Creation of a policy
When a company is small, it is possible to spread messages easily across the small, committed, start-up teams involved at that stage. However, once it acquires enterprise scale, informal communication channels cease to be effective and formal channels need to be introduced. This usually takes the shape of policies that are created and made known to all or impacted constituents so that they may be able to comply with the expectations of the leadership.
Data categorization within an enterprise should be the subject of one or more policies that lay out the various aspects of the subject for the knowledge and compliance of the larger team.
Who should have access to the hush-hush competitor study done with the help of a consultant?
Should the marketing strategy of the company be circulated company-wide?
How can it be ensured that staff members can access the information they need for carrying out their day-to-day activities?
These might be some of the questions the policy needs to address, but, once in place, should make it easier to operate.
Categorization of data
Defining the categories that are relevant for the enterprise will, of course, remain the key focus of the exercise. There are many ways, or parameters, or axes, on which data can be categorized. We are no longer limited to a two or even a three-dimensional mapping of each item. Thanks to modern computing systems, each item can be placed in multiple categories at the same time, while remaining in its place. Thus, data can be classified based on:
- Sensitivity – This is perhaps the most basic requirement, and also one of the objectives. It will depend on the need of the organization to secure the information.
- Business area – Relevant for diversified enterprises in multiple business or product lines.
- Function – Is HR the owner of the data or is it Sales?
- Constituency – Whether it pertains to clients, employees, vendors, etc.
Of course, there can be many others, based on the unique requirement of each company doing it.
Access levels and rights
The placement of data into categories will also lead to defining who has access to what information. Access to employee data, for example, being the personal information of staff, may only be permitted to selected staff in the HT team, while the unaudited financials may only be available to the Finance team. At the same time, once the Balance Sheet has been published, the contents of the document would then become public and open to all.
The IT systems of the enterprise play the role of an ally in data categorization within an enterprise.
Employee personal information may be permitted to the HR team for viewing but information about their compensation may be restricted to the few members of the Compensation and Benefits team.
Though viewing may be permitted, changes to the information may only be allowed with the authorization of the HR Head.
There are many such permutations and combinations that become possible thanks to the technology that is available to everyone. However, the company needs to be clear on its policies regarding data management. All else will follow from there.
Should a partner be engaged to support the process?
Finally, data categorization within an enterprise needs to be done. It will not get done merely by having conceptualized a need for it. Enterprises are busy hives of activity, with moving the many parts that need to be moved to ensure the success of the company.
Dedicating resources to this task, or even getting people to work part-time on this requirement are possibilities that may work in some places, but many organizations have found it worthwhile to engage an enabling partner. This approach has the following advantages:
- Allows staff to focus on their jobs, and ensuring the business can carry on uninterrupted
- Brings many more ideas on the table that may be beneficial, while the management still retains the right to veto or overrode any of them
Should you go down this path, here are some pointers that may be useful when you select a partner for this work. Each outsourcer needs to find a partner that will add value. The perception of value could differ from one to another, as will its provision by different potential partners. A holistic view, in the best interest of the enterprise, will eventually be needed.
Criteria for partner selection
For most business processes, quality and accuracy are non-negotiable. Speed and Pricing are important considerations, but not at the cost of accuracy. An incorrect entry on a GIS system could send a traveler in the wrong direction, or lead to the abortion of a rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral.
oWorkers, has a track record of 8 years in the business, having served multiple global clients. We have repeatedly delivered over 99% levels of accuracy across engagements, despite the differences in scales and measurement systems and criteria used by different clients. Feedback of existing clients as well as performance data are both available for verification.
This refers to the turnaround time or the speed at which work is handled. With ‘just in time’ gaining currency with companies, wherever possible, it is expected that vendors should be able to handle assigned work with great efficiency, reducing the turnaround time to a minimum. This, in turn, enables the principle to operate with greater efficiency and produce better results in its business.
All centers of oWorkers are fully equipped to handle client operations on a 24×7 basis. This ensures that work is handled on the fastest basis. As our clients come from different parts of the world, very often the difference in time zones alone is adequate for overnight delivery of work. If that cannot serve the client requirements, then the 24×7 operation will.
This is the third corner of the operations triangle, apart from quality and efficiency. It is also a necessary part of all commercial engagements; the consideration for providing products or services.
The risk, often, is that undue weightage can be given to pricing during the evaluation process. This apparently happens because pricing is a number, and transparent, while other criteria may be subjective and hence could be called into question based on different beliefs. Hence, a lower price is considered to be a safe recommendation while a higher price, with subjective justification of other reasons, is considered to be unsafe, as the decision could be questioned by higher authorities and motives questioned.
A mature company will make the effort to ensure that pricing is only one of the criteria, and not necessarily the most important one.
A transparent mechanism of pricing, that offers clients a choice between a dollars per hour rate and a dollars per unit of output rate, along with committed service standards and SLAs, enables oWorkers to satisfy all client requirements. Clients note savings of almost 80% after outsourcing to oWorkers, compared to their inhouse costs. This is true for most clients from the US and Western Europe.
This is the backbone on which services have become global, whether it is for data categorization within an enterprise or any other requirement. This is the reason the BPO industry has also been known as an ITES, or Information Technology Enables Services. Having the right technology for the job is often the difference between success and failure.
oWorkers has forged a wide set of partnerships with owners of technologies. This positions us to make use of the latest versions of their technology, depending on the requirements of the project. Our clients gain from this arrangement as the use of these advanced technologies, eventually, is for their work.
While mankind continues to pursue a relentless agenda of development and progress, there are many variables that are not in control that keep impacting lives and businesses around the globe. Political strife, violence and bloodshed can cause havoc, as can freak weather events attributed to global warming that are causing greater and greater damage. Or, the Covid-19 pandemic that has swept through the world like a wildfire. When such events happen, the ability of a business to function can be impaired. However, business continuity options, if available, can be a great benefit, as they enable companies to operate despite the circumstances, and can differentiate them from competitors while giving them an aura of permanence and reliability.
oWorkers is well positioned to offer business continuity to clients in the event the primary delivery site is affected on account of local issues, from any of the three global delivery locations it operates from. In addition, we have been among the first to implement work from home solutions for our staff. Today, we are able to operate at full capacity either from the workplace or from home, depending on the unfolding Covid-19 situation.
Data is a valuable currency for companies and one they want to protect from misuse. It is imperative for a vendor to demonstrate adequate measures to protect client data, especially since they may be doing similar work for other clients, which is what gives them the advantage of experience in that field. Watertight separation of digital spaces for processing is a must, as is physical segregation through access control technologies.
oWorkers is GDPR compliant, as well as ISO/IEC 27001 certified, and committed to following best practices in technology and data security.
As the world shrinks and businesses become global, the ability to understand multiple languages becomes important in keeping the plates spinning. Also, one does not want to seek out a new provider each time the business grows to another geography with another new language. It could become a deterrent for business growth. What one needs is a partner who is able to handle the language requirements that may come up as a result of growth; in other words, a partner who will enable, not hinder, growth.
Along with its presence in three distinct geographical regions of the globe, oWorkers actively practices multicultural and multi-ethnic teams because of which it now possesses the ability to support clients in 22 languages.
Access to resources
The nature of the business is such that it requires hiring to be done almost continuously because many employees drop by the wayside fairly early in the game. Also useful is the ability to adjust hiring volumes to match peaks and troughs in client volumes.
The ability to hire requires presence in the local ecosystem and acceptance as a contributing member of the community, that oWorkers has established in ample measure in all its delivery locations. As a result, we get a steady stream of walk-in applicants that enables us to hire resources based on their suitability for different projects. In addition, it gives us the flexibility to staff for peaks at short notice, without asking clients to bear the cost of these resources for the rest of the year.
A unique feature of BPOs has been the reliance placed on a team that is external to the delivery team, yet a part of the organization, that keeps tabs on the performance of operations. This is known as the Internal Quality (IQ) team.
oWorkers has structured its IQ team to report directly to senior management. This way, the leadership team stays informed on delivery related developments and can intervene as and when required. Besides, the IQ team is engaged in leading improvement projects as well as monitoring the performance of operations and giving feedback to frontline workers.
A business contract will only work if there is something in it for both parties. That is how the leadership team becomes interested in delivering on a contract. The same applies to data categorization within an enterprise. While there is no specific parameter or tool to look at for ascertaining this, experienced business people can ascertain this aspect during the pre-contract interactions.
With a leadership team that has hands-on experience of over 20 years in the industry, oWorkers remains committed to the highest standards of performance in all projects it takes on.
Being a pure player in the space of data services, oWorkers is a specialist in its chosen area of work. It has been recognized among the top three providers of data related BPO services in the world on multiple occasions.
In brief, oWorkers should be your partner of your choice, as it is for many leading technology companies as well as several unicorn platforms.