5 Key Insights into GDPR, an interview with Juha Oravala, Managing Partner of D-fence

D-Fence is a Finnish company that provides companies of both small and medium size support services in making sure their company is GDPR complaint. Many companies are facing problems with becoming GDPR compliant, by using the services of a company like D-Fence they can avoid problems and fines in the future.

In order to take a closer look at the new GDPR law made by the European Union  we asked Juha Oravala, managing partner at D-Fence for an interview and asked him some key questions about the General Data Protection Act. (GDPR)

  1. “What is in your opinion the most important aspect of the new GDPR law?”

– Juha Oravala: “Increased safety of all registrants i.e. people in the European Union. Including companies and protecting all, private person or whatever entity. On the other hand, many organizations, small business especially think it costs a lot of extra work for them, if not handled cleverly and agile. At least here in Finland, a lot of companies think GDPR is denying work or restricting it, this is due to the lack of information. This causes confusion and miscommunication and miscalculation, that’s the bad side to it.”

  1. “Are you confident that businesses will be willing and able to comply with this regulation?”

– Juha Oravala: “Yes, I am, there is no other choice. I believe the demand doesn’t come from fines but from the clients and partners. Such as having a wide range of network might help you get to a pool of right consumers for your product or service.”

  1. “What tools does your company utilize to help make customers GDPR compliant?”

– Juha Oravala: “We have an easy GDPR service to take control of all the GDPR requirements easily and cost-effectively. Everything is already done, templates already filled in, all they have to do is walkthrough the data flow. There is a customer register they open it and there are clear instructions for them. First, they simply get to understand the regulation or ACT, you can’t follow if you don’t understand. Through our service they easily understand what’s it about, fill the required information if not filled earlier and it’s that easy. That’s why it’s called easy GDPR cause it’s easy, doesn’t take a lot of time and easy to keep up with the requirements.

One of the reasons why it’s popular is because it is easy to use, we got 500 clients this Spring itself. We also offer expert support other than GDPR, assistance to questions such as what should they do for marketing campaigns and so on. The price depends on the company so for a company with 50 employees it would cost 1,200€/year while a company with 200 employees would cost 2,500€/year, relatively a small price for the services you get.”

  1. “Does the GDPR affect companies differently in different EU countries?”

– Juha Oravala: “ guess more or less its same, but does it affect the same way. Maybe there are national habits how you follow certain laws, some countries follow it very accurately, others less accurately, so it’s hard to say. I think it’s more like risk-management, if you are an entrepreneur you will confront risk everyday in business as well as on a larger scale. Why take more risks, since less risk results in better sleep.”

  1. “What challenges does GDPR present and what do you think the future will bring with these new regulations?”

– Juha Oravala: “It will escalate in long-term to the global policies regarding data security. The rest of the world looks upon Europe, we are an example for others. So, if all goes well the rest of the world will follow us, since data is the new oil and is very important. This would ensure safety and would benefit everyone not the criminals but since there have been cyber threats and big amount of money has been lost to criminal acts, in long-term it is in everyone’s benefit. I think it will escalate and the rest of the world will follow us with a few exceptions of the tax paradise, those might not follow. However, in short-term, there will be a lot of hassle going and when the first fine is given, rest of the companies would open their eyes and put everything together, there are always some companies that would do it only when it is really necessary.”

We would like to thank D-Fence for the interview, please visit https://www.d-fence.fi for more information.

If you are interested to hear more about out international market research services please click here.

Why consider multiculturalism at work?

“Monument to Multiculturalism” by F. Perilli. Located in Toronto. Photo by S. Meritt.n

During the last few decades, the world has become significantly smaller and flatter. Rapid technological development has made traveling and international communications easier and more affordable. Integration and globalization heavily affect both individuals and businesses. Now organizations are able to be involved in international activities, regardless of the company size and field of business. Among other changes, globalization has made companies consider multiculturalism at work as a necessity or a good way to make international business activities more acceptable and reachable.

Who needs multiculturalism at work?

Globalization affects businesses of all sizes and fields. If global corporations’ have clear reasons to adopt multiculturalism, then with small and medium-sized enterprises the situation is less clear.

According to the study of the European Commission, the majority of SMEs have reported cultural awareness and diversity to be as important for them, as it is for the global corporations. Indeed, even if the company’s area of operation covers only local market, it is still a stakeholder at the global market, which is a multinational structure. If multiculturalism in the international market is a necessity, not a matter of choice, it is that also in the local market.

Despite the acknowledgment of the importance of diversity, only some SMEs have adopted the concept, due to the lack of effective management or the risk of failure being too high.

However, even if multiculturalism adoption feels like a doubtful move for a small or medium size enterprise, it can be worth taking a risk. Surely, in the modern world, “one of the biggest risks is not taking risks”.

Why take a risk?

First of all, within an international team, members learn how to deal with different people. It is challenging but beneficial to a company, as it gives a broader access to potential customers and suppliers in the domestic region, if not in international markets. Diversity at workplace can give a possibility to differentiate better connection with, for example, cultural and linguistic minorities.

Importantly, cultural diversity can be a company´s lifesaver. The international characteristics of the team allow its members to receive diverse experience, as well as knowledge about potential solutions to various problems. People from various cultures can arise with the best solution, as they look at a problem from different angles. It can be an advantage for the company, as the problem-solving process turns more thorough.

Multicultural environment can increase the productivity of the team. Increasing productivity is always a big goal and challenge for management. There is always the place for improvement. However, pulling together all the strengths of individual workers, who are related either to their cultural backgrounds or their personalities, can significantly strengthen the ability of the team to solve various tasks faster and more effectively.

Three basic steps to effective multiculturalism

One important question is: how to get there? We have analyzed different strategies and approaches and picked up three to try at first.

The first important step is to ensure strong support from the CEO. In this case, support does not mean a top-down decision making but mentoring the whole process.

However, CEO alone does not define the whole corporate culture. For the whole organization to truly change, involving every single member is required – from the top manager to each employee. The CEO, nevertheless, has to have a strong vision on opportunities, to gain the credibility about the idea among the employees.

As mentioned before, it is important to take a risk. However, taking a risk does not mean to be exuberant. There is no need to start with such a change that requires solid investments and, thus, can lead to a huge loss. The establishment of diversity can start with small experiments at the lowest level.

Last but not least, focusing on the strengths that each employee can bring to the table is crucial. It is wise to take time and dig deeper, to understand how workers with different backgrounds and communication abilities can give to the working process. The downside to remember is that all employees are individuals, who do not have to necessarily reflect all the qualities common for their backgrounds.

To conclude, nowadays it is important to take risks and try to expand horizons, also in business. Multiculturalism can positively affect the performances and reputation of a company, in the regional market and globally. Thanks to the CEO, new opportunities can rise and ready to catch, as long as they do not affect the company´s safety. Moreover, new international employees can bring high value to the company, keeping in mind that every person is individual, regardless the nationality and background.

Estonia – Europe’s most entrepreneurial economy?

According to the World Economic Forum and Global Entrepreneurship Europe’s Hidden Entrepreneurs Report (December 2016), Estonia has been ranked first in regards to the number of startups per capita from 2011 through 2015. This country of 1.3 million people has maintained consistent growth in many ways since its independence in 1991, with one exception in 2009 after the financial crisis. The secret to success might lie in the country’s approach to entrepreneurship and to the idea that less bureaucracy is better. In Estonia, it takes approximately 15 minutes to set up a company whereas, in the neighboring country, Finland, the process could take months. This is just one of the innovative approaches Estonia took to encourage high rates of entrepreneurship.

At the national level, Estonian schools have adopted entrepreneurship education at all earlier levels by introducing students to a program called “I am an Entrepreneur”. Originally, this program was launched by the energy company, Eesti Energia in cooperation with the Estonian Chamber of Commerce. It targets 13–19-year-olds and aims to bridge the gap between entrepreneurship education in the formal education system with the non-formal education system. There are more than 200 organizations and more than 70 mentors involved in the program.

In January 2017 Estonia launched a startup visa program to lure even more startups and employers to this growing startup hub. During the first month of the program over 50 applications were received. The reason for the program’s success lies in part with Estonia’s reputation for innovation, not only in technology development but innovation in how the government passes rules and regulations to allow businesses and entrepreneurship to thrive.

One of the success stories is TransferWise. In 2010 two Estonian friends, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus were living in the UK, but from time to time were forced to make cross-border money transfers. Käärmann was transferring money from Estonia to the UK and Hinrikus transferring money from the UK to Estonia to pay his mortgage and paying huge transfer costs. The potential for cheaper service in the currency swap industry was discovered when the two friends started to pay each other’s costs and TransferWise was born. Today this currency swap service company is worth more than one billion dollars, which is a huge milestone for any tech startup company. The company has attracted investments from Sir Richard Branson, which gave TransferWise even more credibility as a company.

TransferWise is openly fighting to bring transparency to forex transfers around the world and has been said to be taking “a machete to the hefty fees that banks levy to send money across borders”. According to TransferWise Future of Finance Report, the financial markets will look very different within a few years. Just in the past five years, the financial technology start-up companies have been innovating the finance sector. Cutting the traditional bank’s service fees and providing better service has been shaking the banking sector and the future looks bright for the financial technology, or simply just fintech, sector. The Guardian has called TransferWise the “Robin Hood” of currency trade – not many companies that have emerged from an old Soviet country have questioned the hundred years old banking sector.

TransferWise is not the first multimillion dollar company started in Estonia. The instant message and video call service provider Skype was developed in Estonia and the now Microsoft-owned company’s back-end development office is still situated in the capital of Estonia. Skype’s story isn’t that different from that of TransferWise. There was a clear demand for phone calls over IP and Skype answered that demand.

The success of innovative technological solutions in Estonia might lie in its history. Until 1991, Estonia was part of the Soviet Union where resources were scarce or unavailable. One of the investors in Skype, Steve Juvertson, was wondering how such a small group of people could build something so fast when it would take Microsoft much longer to develop products. Jurvetson said “I had the impression that maybe coming out of a time of Soviet occupation, when computers were underpowered, you had to know how to really program, effectively, parsimoniously, being very elegant in sculpting the programming code to be tight, effective, and fast. [That’s] not like Microsoft, which has a very lazy programming environment, where programs are created that have memory leaks and all sorts of problems, that crash all the time and no one really cares – because it’s Microsoft!”.

Even the Europe’s Hidden Entrepreneurs report says that “Aside from structural economic factors, the country has other drivers of entrepreneurship. First, Estonia has a long-standing history and culture of self-reliance and persistence, stemming from living in the shadow of large, sometimes even hostile neighbors. As a result, Estonian entrepreneurs pride themselves on the ability to be persistent and inventive, whatever the conditions. Second, in the last decade, Estonia has seen a number of success stories which has elevated entrepreneurship visibly in the public eye. […] Third, Estonia is a very small country, which means that entrepreneurs with ambitious goals are forced to think internationally from the start.”

The Estonian technology reputation has not gone unnoticed as more and more startups emerge from Estonia. However, even though Estonia has been proliferating startups there is an issue that Estonian companies have faced. Lower salaries in Estonia have not attracted the skilled ICT developers to meet the demand. The Nordic countries offer higher salaries to skilled programmers. To overcome the challenge of attracting talent from outside of the borders, the government has set in motion the Estonian Entrepreneurship Growth Strategy 2014 – 2020, a plan to address the shortage in these skills by offering education in targeted fields.

Reference:

Startup Estonia     Hidden Entrepreneurs      Growth Strategy    TransferWise     Skype