Software or Consultant: which GDPR product is right for you?

As it stands, the GDPR services market is valued at USD 1183.2 million and is expected to reach USD 4364 million by 2026.

This rapid growth at a CAGR of 24.3% between 2021-2016, means businesses looking to improve their company compliance have never had more access to different market options for GDPR tools, experts and knowledge. 

Such a vast choice can be daunting, and many organisations are finding themselves torn between choosing compliance software, onboarding a GDPR consultant or adopting a robust combination of the two.

If you’re struggling to make a call on which GDPR product is right for your business, below we look at three major factors to consider before purchasing your next compliance investment.

1. The scope of your GDPR project

A good starting point for figuring out which GDPR product or service is right for your business is to work out how compliant you want to be – both tomorrow as well as in the next couple of years. 

Will you start implementing GDPR to a select department of your company such as legal or HR, which you know deals with lots of personal data, or do you want your entire organization to be fully GDPR compliant collectively?

If you’re tackling a smaller amount of data to begin with, and have already started basic data mapping (with some documentation and policies in place), then the chances are you’d be best suited to starting your GDPR tasks internally with the support of compliance software and a project lead.

Compliance software will enable your team to embark on more effective data mapping, getting all your data into one place and building a strong foundation of best practices and processes.

Once you’ve consolidated all your information, you’ll have a much clearer oversight of your situation. You’ll be able to identify any risks or find out if you’re missing critical GDPR protocols such as retention rules, policies or risk assessments. From this point, you can also make a more informed call on whether or not you need to bring in an external consultant. 

However, if you know your compliance goals are more ambitious, or if you haven’t started any data mapping at all and your project seems overwhelming, then we recommend getting a GDPR consultant on board.

A GDPR consultancy service will not only provide you with a robust roadmap to compliance, but will also save you from time poorly spent, manual errors or costly mistakes. Consultants will also be able to recommend the best time to introduce a compliance solution, ensuring maximum ROI on your software investment.  

If you’re still unsure about choosing between a software vs consultancy approach, here’s an example of the two options in action:

Imagine you’re having a hard time citing how data is being deleted within your processes. If your challenge lies within creating the right retention rules in your policies, then getting a legal consultant on board is the best option. They can help you understand your options and decide which retention rules are the best to implement based on your specific policies. 

If you’re in the situation where the retention rules are defined properly and the challenge is that the organization is not following them, then your best option is a GDPR project lead consultant who can help facilitate better communication between policies and the organization. 

If however, you know that your organization is deleting data according to your policies but you’re having challenges proving this, then you should invest in a system that allows you to document the deletion process easily.

It’s important to note that while the right tool will help you ask your organization the key questions, the tool itself is only as good as the informed people behind it. So if you’re working in an environment with a poor compliance culture, it’s vital to consider external assistance that will help you fill the knowledge gap and onboard the right resources.

2. The extent of your internal knowledge

After your GDPR processes and roadmap are in place, you need to look inwards and consider your available expertise: do you have the right knowledge internally to carry out your compliance process yourself? Or, would you benefit from an external specialist?

An easy way to determine a knowledge gap is to ask the GDPR responsible in your company to look at your roadmap and reflect on how confident they feel with implementing each task and phase. 

If the required knowledge and expertise are available and you have the internal know-how to build on your compliance goals, then you may opt for software over a consultant, to begin with. 

Alongside a long list of benefits, the right compliance platform will allow your internal GDPR responsible to spend less time on manual tasks, such as report generation or data retrieval, and more time on high-value activity such as strategy, risk assessment and keeping up to date with the latest industry developments. 

On the other hand if, after viewing your GDPR roadmap, there is some hesitation or insecurity around implementation, an external consultant will be extremely valuable to your compliance efforts.

For example, your internal team may be managing your current compliance process effectively but feel less confident about new projects you have in store, such as retention projects or third country data transfers

Rather than exposing your company to any risks by hoping you’re applying the right rules and processes, it’s a much smarter move to safeguard your company’s data and reputation by following the guidance of a GDPR consultant. 

Compliance knowledge in action in your company

As well as helping improve internal knowledge, a consultant can be instrumental in securing greater internal buy-in of GDPR processes and investment. If you’re struggling to get employees to follow compliance regulations or various departments or managers aren’t aligned in the necessary direction, an external expert is often extremely helpful in giving your project the extra weight and validity it needs to unite your company.

Our clients often tell us that it’s more efficient and transparent to have our team hold the GDPR workshops because we bring an unbiased view and angle to the project. Having a neutral presence allows a company to focus on the steps they need to take without the interference of workplace tensions or office politics. 

3. The sensitivity of your data

While it’s true that all data needs protection, the more sensitive your data, the greater your need will be to invest in GDPR products and services. 

For example, if you’re operating in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare or finance, a potential data breach of personal information will generally be more costly and risky than if you work in the retail sector and capture minimal personal data. So, the higher the risk, the greater your investment should be in protecting your data. 

Combining software that enables more effective data mapping and optimized risk analysis with the expertise of a GDPR consultant will ensure you’re taking every possible step to keep your data safe and secure.

This said, while some information may not technically be deemed highly sensitive by governing bodies, mishandling this data could be equally damaging in terms of your company’s reputation. Just because you won’t incur a high GDPR fine doesn’t mean you won’t lose business from data-savvy clients. 

To figure out the level of protection your data needs, you should look at what the consequences would be if you had a data breach – both in terms of a visit from the DPA and from a business perspective. Remember, a fine or an injunction also means spending resources on a subsequent clean-up to ensure the same mistake is not repeated. 
If your data poses a low risk, then internal operations supported by software would be a good fit. However, if your data operations are riskier, it’s better practice to take no chances and arm your team with the tech and expertise they need to keep your company as compliant as possible.

Final thoughts:

There are many factors to consider when choosing which GDPR product is right for your business. However, every company is unique. An appropriate solution for one company could fall short in safeguarding your data. 

So, always make sure you approach your product or service investment after a thorough examination of your internal practices, protocols and goals.

Our final piece of advice for any company looking to improve its compliance processes is to acquire some knowledge before setting your GDPR goals and roadmap – whether that’s hiring an employee with experience and expertise or an external consultant. This knowledge will allow you to set realistic goals and onboard the support or tools you need to get it right from the start and leverage it in the years to come.