2018 has been an eye-opener when it comes to protecting customer data. From middle market businesses to large corporations, cybersecurity and simple human error pose an increasing risk. With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) having come into effect last month, how can middle market businesses and fast-growing companies use this change to benefit them?

Compliance with GDPR can feel like a burden for businesses of all sizes and, with the wealth of marketing emails begging consumers to opt in, it feels like all of Europe has data protection fatigue. But GDPR is also an opportunity to reimagine business models for a data driven age. GDPR’s principle of ‘data privacy by design’ is a challenge to businesses to leave behind models that rely on the blanket collection of data in search of new, more targeted approaches. The rewards are tempting: reduced reputational risk, lower operational costs and greater protection from cybercrime.

Reworking your approach to data security while you are small might seem expensive, but it could give you the edge over larger rivals forced to eternally patch holes in outdated legacy systems. Therefore, GDPR is an opportunity for many dynamic and growing businesses to review the way they use data in their operations. It is no surprise that, according to the FT’s Fastest Growing Companies Report, many of the fastest growing companies in Europe are using technology in either their front or back-end operations. The ability to capture, analyse and apply insights from vast streams of data has transformed business, but GDPR has shown that there needs to be limits too.

While GDPR may seem like a barrier to be overcome, it is also an opportunity for middle market businesses to strengthen the way they and their customers interact with one another. After all, no one likes to feel that their privacy is at risk or to be bombarded with too many emails. In this way, GDPR could have a cleansing effect on businesses and consumers alike, and make future engagements more meaningful.