Privacy Worries Cost Companies Real Money

It’s easy to get a business executives’ attention: Just take away the money. It’s one of the great equalizers because it doesn’t matter what race, nationality, gender, or religion describes the executive. If you start taking money off the table, you have their attention.

According to a new study released by Cisco, concerns about privacy are now doing just that around the world. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the businesses surveyed — 65 percent — said that privacy concerns are lengthening sales cycles and adding significant delays to sales. And when it comes to the sales cycle, time is, indeed, money. How much money are we talking about, here? A lot. The companies surveyed reported that, on average, privacy concerns are adding 7.8 weeks to their sales cycle. Those weeks matter in the hyper-competitive markets in which most companies now operate.

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As with most things, the exact delay differs depending on the industry involved; government and healthcare report the longest delays. And there’s another factor playing with the delay being thrown into so many sales processes: GDPR is coming and few organizations know precisely how it will ultimately affect their sales.

But with all those differences and uncertainties the one constant is that privacy concerns are expensive. The great variable, it seems, is how mature an organization’s privacy regimen is. Companies with mature, well-developed privacy policies and practices suffer delays that are about 1/4 those of companies with ad hoc or immature privacy practices.

Given the potential effects of these delays on sales and revenues, Cisco advises organizations to take the following steps:

  • Measure current delays: Assess the scope of sales delays due to data privacy issues and understand how much sales revenue might be affected by the delays.
  • Assess root causes: Portions of a delay may be caused by sales teams being unable to address customer concerns, incomplete or inaccessible corporate policies, or engineering/design issues. Executives need to know root causes to determine resolutions.
  • Establish ongoing metrics and targeted initiatives: Regularly measure and track the sales delay metric, and set priorities for appropriate investments to reduce the delays.
  • Explore effects on cyber losses: Assess the cause of any data breaches and losses that might have been avoided through more mature data privacy processes.
  • Develop a data privacy and protection plan: If such a plan does not currently exist, plan to create policies and protocols that contribute to good security hygiene.

All of this starts, though, with simply paying attention. It’s far too tempting to assume that privacy is someone else’s problem, or that the most cost-effective strategy is to wait until there’s a problem and just pay the piper. What this study shows is that the piper is always there holding out a hand for more cash — and it’s easy enough to cut down the bill for this particular set of tunes.