Data Considerations for Connectivity
Three decades ago, when viewers watched Knight Rider covertly fight crime in an AI-driven, sentient sports car, artificially intelligent vehicles were a work of fiction, but the future is finally here. Consumers aren’t just driving with the help of interactive dashboard navigation; they’re also working, shopping, and living in a connected world thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and connectivity that’s stronger, faster, and more reliable than ever before. From house lights programmed to dim at a specific time of day to a wearable personal assistant in watch form, technology expansion and improved software integration have improved our lives with convenience and efficiency in our day-to-day world.
We’re more connected than ever. Connectivity creates opportunities for companies to improve operations, encourage a good customer experience, and boost revenue. However, with exponential growth in available data, businesses must consider privacy, security, and transparency to their bottom line.
Benefits of Connected Data
The majority of data businesses collect is harmless and even necessary for a good user experience. Consumer-provided data, also known as first-party data, enhances app personalization that many consumers appreciate, creating a more useful digital product or application. Tech giants like Apple and Google collect data to connect services—maps, mail, searches, and app integration—seamlessly, which is much more efficient than asking users to submit their data anew for each program.
While laws protect highly sensitive or confidential user data, other information—including search history, location, usage, and browsing history—is passed to businesses and advertisers. Companies use this data to personalize their experience across the IoT and serve up highly relevant ads. Third-party data is why you see ads for the exact product you researched. It helps cut through the clutter and gives consumers the information they need.
Consumers can enjoy unique possibilities as data collection grows, and software and apps use it in more sophisticated ways. Using browsing data, app companies can anticipate needs based on time of day, location, or date (imagine an app that tells you where to eat based on your past restaurant experience—an end to the “where do you want to eat” conversation). It can help small businesses reach more of their target market to thrive. Data collection and analysis can even keep us safer by predicting criminal activity through early warning systems.
The future is developing quickly. Here’s what consumers and business leaders need to know about data privacy and security in today’s connected world.
For two decades, data privacy was an afterthought for many companies. Data harvesting gave unprecedented access to customer insights and market analysis, and many built their business through third-party data. Consumers primarily offered their information without considering how companies would use it, while companies considered data a trade secret and operated outside government oversight.
Today, consumers are more protective of their data and have become increasingly distrustful of sharing their private information. Data collection practices needed to change, and we’ve witnessed a shift toward more transparency and more choices for consumers in the last few years.
Your User & Their Privacy
Data privacy, at its core, revolves around transparency. Consumers need to know how you collect and store their data and why, when, and what data you collect. Typically outlined in a privacy statement on a company website, privacy policies create trust between a company and the consumers they serve.
Data collection is a balancing act. Consumers have noted that companies who ask for too much information, create complex or confusing privacy policies, and use inaccurate information about themselves used in marketing topped the list of what leads to distrust.
Companies should be acutely aware of how they ask for information from consumers and empower the users by giving them back control over what they share. Relying on first-party data and collecting and storing it ethically shows respect for your consumers. When consumers know a company has their best interests in mind, they are more likely to continue building trust with the company for years to come.
Current in Big Tech
One of the most powerful shifts in consumer privacy came in an iOS upgrade for Apple products aimed to protect users’ data. The iOS15 upgrade included the option to mask IP addresses and block third parties from tracking email opens, an iCloud-based subscription that prevents sites from tracking Safari users, and an email address “cloaking” feature that provides a fake email address.
Google upped the ante by announcing they would phase out third-party cookies by 2022 and were not planning to build alternative options to track users as they browse on Google products. After some backlash from the online advertising industry, Google created a Privacy Sandbox initiative to create website standards that access first-party data while still protecting users.
The switch to a first-party data-driven world has considerable implications for development and marketing alike. Developers will have to get more creative with asking customers for their data—email forms, surveys, location data, and browsing behavior. Marketers will, in turn, use this data to identify consumer insights, which means they’ll have to be more in tune with their customers’ needs and continuously iterate to discover what works. Advertising may be more challenging as marketers won’t have a chance to rely on platforms like Facebook or Google to find their ideal customers.
Consumers expect companies to use their data responsibly and protect it from bad agents—scammers and cybercriminals who collect and expose data for profit. Data breaches increased 68% in 2021 from the previous year—the highest total ever. Despite the attention to data protection, more than 294 million people were affected by these cyberattacks, which focused on smaller, targeted attacks on smaller businesses.
Data privacy and data security go hand in hand. As companies work on compiling first-party data and building trust with their customers, cybercriminals will more heavily target individual companies protecting this data. Our ever-present connectivity, including smart cars, smart homes, smart devices, and the overall IoT, brings another dimension to data privacy because there are more access points for cybercriminals to steal personal data.
Now is the time for development and cybersecurity professionals to double down on protecting this data. As your company builds software and digital products, ensure they are secure by design. Develop fool-proof security measures to prevent theft, detect theft early, and respond to security threats. Create code review policies, audit trails, and vulnerability scans to find security gaps.
Consumers are accustomed to the ease and personalization of their apps and software integrations, and companies rely on the information these consumers provide to make informed decisions that benefit their customers. The connectivity ecosystem is a delicate balance between too much and not enough, but the future of data is in good hands.
InspiringApps & Brain+Trust
This content is a collaboration between InspiringApps and Brain+Trust.
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Boulder, CO—In the latest article from Built In Colorado, InspiringApps’ Director of Operations, Stacy Griffin, joins other leaders in sharing their career journeys, the lessons they’ve learned, and their advice for other women. Describe your career journey and current role. My career journey spans over 20 years in technology, project management, and people management. I started out as a developer at IBM and then moved into a developer lead role, which is when I began managing projects. From there, I pivoted to a formal project management role, which involved interacting with the business, gathering requirements, and managing technical project delivery. I eventually joined InspiringApps as a project manager, applying those same skills. Recently, I was promoted to director of operations, a new strategic role. I manage people and projects as a member of the leadership team. I’m also involved more on the sales side. My job requires managing a team of developers and overseeing client engagements and project lifecycle and delivery. It requires a lot of communication with clients and developers, both of whom have distinct working styles. To set expectations, I draw from years of experience in listening and applying empathy. I also have a master’s in computer science, which gives me aptitude and credibility with technical audiences. What advice do you have for other women who manage tech teams or aspire to? I have two pieces of advice for women who aspire to manage tech teams. First, find a role model. Look for mentors, ask questions and try to learn from the people around you. Secondly, avoid imposter syndrome. You should feel comfortable in your own skin. Remember that you’ve earned your seat at the table. What’s one important lesson you’ve learned in your time as a leader, and how has that made you a better manager? I’ve learned that there’s no single right way to manage people. Having the courage to manage in a way that’s comfortable and authentic to my personality allows me to lean into my strengths and improve in areas where I need to grow. It’s also important to know that treating people with autonomy and respect builds trust. People appreciate it when you’re honest and open. I’m not a micromanager, and I naturally take the role of supporting people. I’ve learned to combine open dialog with frequent check-ins. Bringing my authentic self to work makes me a better manager.
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Culture is what we share; it’s the values, goals, attitudes, and practices that make us who we are as an organization. A strong culture can give your company an advantage by fostering loyalty, creativity, and motivation. But what are the ingredients of positive company culture? Each company has its own unique culture and way of crafting it. The best cultures dovetail perfectly: employees and leaders focus on the same mission and encourage rewards. Discovering the perfect combination, however, doesn’t happen overnight. This article shares our approach and recommendations to create an intentional company culture, offering insights and strategies that any company can apply to nurture a positive environment that leads to success. What is intentional company culture? Every company has a culture. While culture may form organically, consistent and intentional cultivation will result in greater success. Intentional company culture combines organizational values and mission with the rewards of employment that come in four main styles: Loyalty-based Performance-based Opportunity-based Lifestyle-based No style is better than the other; it’s dependent on the company and the employees hired. For instance, if your staff prefers lifestyle-based culture (flexible work or other perks) over performance-based culture (raises and promotions for a job well done), the employees may stay dissatisfied and leave to find a company culture that suits their preference. In InspiringApps’ infancy, the personalities of the relatively few people involved drove our culture. But as the company grew, we were careful to emphasize the characteristics that fostered a positive work environment and eliminated any contrary to what we’ve come to value—empathy, inclusion, and personal growth for our employees. Why do your employees need an intentional company culture? A recent survey found that 79% of employees who left their jobs did so because of a lack of appreciation, and 50% said they were more motivated by appreciation than money. This sounds like a job for company culture! In an ideal world, company culture and performance should work in tandem. Employees who are happy with their jobs have higher satisfaction rates. However, lousy work culture can hurt employees, bringing high turnover rates, burnout, and subpar work. Creating an intentional company culture requires consistency and time. There is no shortcut. Intentional company culture benefits from open minds. Influential leaders seek to: Understand what employees appreciate and what causes them pain. Hear employees’ suggestions for improvement. Follow through with promised changes. Repeat the above frequently. Intentional company culture requires commitment from everyone—especially the leadership team. InspiringApps understands this fundamental truth. An InspiringApps employee explains it best: How To Develop & Maintain a Great Company Culture Engaged employees are critical for business success. Experience is the best teacher, and we’ve learned plenty of lessons regarding things that keep our employees a happy part of the team. We built our culture slowly and methodically, and we’re proud to celebrate strong retention, with over 40% of our staff staying with us for more than five years. Among all the lessons we’ve learned, the following best practices stand apart from the rest: Promote from within. Offer excellent benefits. Be inclusive. Communicate consistently. In the following sections, we discuss each best practice in detail and share our experiences to help every company develop and maintain a great culture. Promote From Within Today’s employees are looking for a company with opportunities for career advancement and appreciate roles with a clear path to growth and promotions, as they give them personal goals to work towards. Along the employee journey, InspiringApps offers professional development opportunities that help our team members stay on top of their skills, expand their capabilities, and incorporate new and developing interests. By doing so, our employees can have long tenures at InspiringApps, while remaining competitive. At the same time, we can hire the best candidates for our growing positions right from our own team. As the InspiringApps client roster scaled, so did our team. We promoted long-time employees into our development team lead roles, recognizing their wisdom and honoring their commitment to our team through their tenure. Offer Excellent Benefits Many startups, including InspiringApps, may be resource-constrained in the early days. Health and retirement benefits are expensive, so we focused first on benefits that didn’t require a direct cash outlay. Establishing a two-day-per-week remote work policy over a decade ago, accommodating part-time employees, and offering flexible work hours were all low-cost ways to treat our team with respect. As InspiringApps matured, we also added more traditional benefits. In addition to a 401(k) plan with match, profit sharing, and a generous and flexible PTO policy, we recently increased the company’s health premium contribution from 50% to 100% and added company-paid vision, dental, disability, and employee assistance (EAP). Be Inclusive Inclusivity is a mandate kept top-of-mind in the projects and clients we take on and the staff we hire and promote. In a historically homogenous industry like tech, inclusivity can be a challenge. Through intentional recruiting and a focus on providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented groups to join the field, InspiringApps is working to build a more diverse team that better reflects the communities we serve. 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