Database MOT: Three steps to help keep your data GDPR worthy

To keep your car running smoothly, you need to show it some love and attention. Yearly MOTs, services, regular checks on break fluid and oil levels; it’s an ongoing job to ensure it is in good working order. The same goes for databases and the information within them. We are now six months into GDPR and how data is used by businesses has never been more under scrutiny than it is now. The long-term consequences for organisations who haven’t got their data in order is also coming to light.

It seems that no one is immune to getting it wrong, since the legislation was brought into force the Information Commissioner’s Office has taken action against 170 businesses for reasons such as breaches of data law to sending nuisance emails.

So, while we are increasingly relying on data in the day to day running of a modern business, how can you be sure that you are keeping it in the best possible condition? You wouldn’t let your MOT run out on your car and applying the same maintenance mindset to your data can help you on your way to keeping your data GDPR worthy.

Run a data MOT 

Firstly, before any kind of remedy can be put into place, a thorough MOT of your data should be your number one priority. Regularly running diagnostics on your systems will ensure that any anomalies are picked up. By doing so, you will be able to form the best plan of action.

You need to be extremely rigorous and ensure that every single piece of your data is up to date and relevant. It may be the case that you are stockpiling information that hasn’t been used for years. So now is the time to scour those databases and ask yourself why you are hanging on to it and whether you need to keep it at all.

To help you find any issues, before they become a real problem, there are plenty of data quality tools that you can implement into your business. They can dramatically cut the cost and time required to cultivate databases of the highest standard and also repeatedly check for errors – alerting teams to any issues in real-time.

Not only will these tools help you comply with regulation, having accurate and real-time insights at your disposal can also give you the edge on your competitors. After all, the best business decisions can’t be made by using data that is out-of-date.

Keep an eye on the dashboard

Once the source of your data woes has been found, the next step is to make sure your team of experts have the right training and tools in place to treat any issues that were picked up during diagnostics.

To do this effectively, your teams need to have continuous visibility into the quality of your data – much like the dashboard of your car will warn you of any issues that are arising. This means they will be able to act quickly in order to curtail any possible business disruptions. An agile data-management system will give an insight into this and give staff the power to dig down into databases for an under the bonnet look at the standards of data quality and zero in on any areas that need attention.

The significance of training shouldn’t be underestimated. Even though technology may be able to do the bulk of the heavy lifting, the human element is never fully removed from these processes. Often, data is exclusively in the territory of the CDO or CFO, when actually, data is used every day by members of staff across an entire business. As such, they are all relying on this information to be in the best shape possible. Poor quality data can impact productivity and leave staff irritated. If all employees are well versed in best practice when it comes to managing data, any issues that do crop up can be dealt with in the most efficient way possible.

You can take this one step further and appoint a ‘data guardian’ – a team member that can underline the importance of every staff member being mindful of the data that is in their charge. This individual should be someone who is able to implement a change in the culture around data handling and has full insight into what is currently working and what is not.

Book your databases in for a service

Finally, a pinpoint understanding of where your customers data sits, what it contains and how up to date it is, is also critical when complying with GDPR regulation. A tailored data-management service can help with this ongoing task. Like taking your car to the dealer for a service to pick up any issues before they become a bigger problem, a data management system can monitor and alert you to only what is relevant. As well as this, they can also minimise the need for manual intervention and reduce the risk of human errors.

This shouldn’t be a drawn-out process, nor should it be a one-time box ticking exercise. A long-term information governance programme will help to support a GDPR strategy. Having pre-set rules and minimum standards for your data means it can be continuously monitored and measured against these thresholds. If they fall below required standards, you can be notified and set teams to fixing any errors before they impact your organisation.

To help you deliver on your GDPR compliance, you need to follow these steps regularly, not simply as a one-off activity. Databases are in constant use and it can be easy to become complacent in your processes. We are increasingly seeing that nobody is completely safe from being caught out with their data practices and as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.


By Frank Schuler, VP SAP Technical Architecture, BackOffice Associates

Join our free-to-attend digital event, Last Thursday in Privacy, addressing data protection, privacy and security challenges including working from home, COVID-19, global regulations and more. Visit

We have been awarded the number 1 GDPR Blog in 2019 by Feedspot.