What is GDPR Compliance Software? An In-Depth Guide for 2023

If your business operates in the European Union or handles the personal data of EU citizens, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is impossible to ignore. This comprehensive data privacy law, which took effect in May 2018, fundamentally changed how companies collect, use, and protect personal information.

The stakes for non-compliance are high. GDPR violations can result in fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual revenue, whichever is higher. In the first three years of enforcement, EU regulators levied over €290 million in fines, with the largest single fine of €50 million assessed against Google in 2019.

But GDPR is not just about avoiding penalties. It‘s about respecting individual privacy rights and building trust with customers and employees. As data breaches and misuse continue to make headlines, people are more concerned than ever about how their personal information is handled. According to a 2020 Pew Research survey, 79% of Americans are concerned about how companies use their data.

Meeting the many requirements of GDPR can seem overwhelming, especially for small and mid-sized businesses without large legal and IT teams. But a emerging category of technology is helping to ease this burden: GDPR compliance software.

What is GDPR Compliance Software?

GDPR compliance software refers to platforms and tools that help automate and manage the various processes required to comply with the regulation. While the specific capabilities vary, key features often include:

Feature Description
Data inventory and mapping Automated tools to discover, classify and map all personal data across the organization, a crucial first step in GDPR compliance.
Consent management Systems to capture, record and manage user consent for different types of data processing, a core tenet of GDPR.
Data subject rights management Workflows to efficiently handle data subject access requests (DSAR), including data retrieval, editing, and deletion.
Data protection impact assessments (DPIA) Guided templates and collaboration tools to analyze and document compliance for high-risk processing activities.
Data breach management Incident response tools to quickly identify, investigate and report data breaches within GDPR‘s 72-hour notification window.
Vendor management Portals and questionnaires to assess and monitor the GDPR compliance of third-party processors and sub-processors.

Leading GDPR compliance software platforms take an integrated approach, bringing together these different capabilities into a unified, automated command center for managing GDPR compliance.

Benefits of GDPR Compliance Software

In the wake of GDPR, many organizations have cobbled together manual compliance processes, relying on a patchwork of spreadsheets, documents and email to track compliance activities across the business. But this approach has major limitations. It‘s time-consuming, prone to errors and inconsistencies, and doesn‘t provide real-time visibility.

Purpose-built GDPR compliance software offers several key advantages:

  1. Automation and efficiency: Compliance software streamlines GDPR processes through automated workflows, pre-built templates, and integrations. For example, OneTrust‘s data mapping tool automatically scans and inventories personal data across IT systems, significantly reducing manual effort.

  2. Centralized management: Housing all GDPR initiatives in a single platform creates a "single source of truth". TrustArc‘s Assessment Manager provides a unified dashboard to manage compliance status across the organization and easily generate audit reports.

  3. Consistency and standardization: Compliance software embeds GDPR requirements and best practices into standardized processes. This ensures a consistent, defensible approach and reduces mistakes. For instance, Securiti.ai uses AI to suggest appropriate retention periods for different data categories.

  4. Collaboration and accountability: Compliance software keeps stakeholders aligned and accountable. Wirewheel offers built-in task management and collaboration features so cross-functional teams can efficiently work together on compliance activities.

  5. Risk management: The ultimate goal of GDPR compliance software is reducing regulatory and reputational risk. The automation and consistency these tools provide are key to preventing costly violations and building customer trust. According to IAPP research, 50% of privacy technology users cite "reduce risk" as the primary benefit.

As GDPR matures and enforcement ramps up, it‘s becoming increasingly untenable to manage compliance manually. GDPR compliance software is quickly becoming a must-have to efficiently and effectively operationalize GDPR.

Key Considerations for Selecting GDPR Compliance Software

With dozens of vendors vying for market share, choosing the right GDPR compliance software can be daunting. Here are some important factors to consider:

Comprehensive coverage: Look for tools that cover the full spectrum of GDPR requirements, from data discovery through breach response. Best-in-class platforms like OneTrust offer modular solutions that can be mixed and matched to meet your specific needs.

Ease of implementation: GDPR compliance software should reduce complexity, not add to it. Prioritize solutions with quick deployment models, intuitive interfaces, and strong support. Wirewheel is known for its user-friendly, visual approach to data privacy management.

Integration with existing infrastructure: Your compliance software should seamlessly integrate with your current IT stack, including security tools, CRM and HR systems, and data lakes. BigID connects with over 250 enterprise systems out-of-the-box for unified data visibility.

Automation and intelligence: AI and machine learning capabilities are a major differentiator in GDPR compliance software. Securiti.ai uses AI throughout its PrivacyOps platform for data scanning, DSARs, and more to speed up response times.

Customization and agility: Your compliance software should adapt to your organization‘s unique policies, processes and risk profile. Avoid rigid, one-size-fits-all solutions. TrustArc‘s platform is highly customizable and built to evolve with changing regulations.

Vendor track record: In a crowded market, proven experience matters. Look for established vendors with deep GDPR expertise, large customer bases, and a forward-looking product roadmap. OneTrust has over 6,000 customers and a 4.6/5 rating on Gartner Peer Insights.

The key is to view GDPR compliance software as a long-term investment, not a quick fix. With new privacy regulations constantly emerging, the right technology partner can help your organization nimbly adapt to the future of data protection.

Getting the Most from GDPR Compliance Software

Purchasing a GDPR compliance platform is an important milestone, but it‘s just the beginning. To maximize the value of these tools, organizations should follow these best practices:

Assign clear ownership: Appoint a dedicated individual or team to oversee the implementation and ongoing management of the compliance software. This accountability helps ensure the tools are being used consistently and effectively across the business.

Prioritize data governance: Compliance software is only as good as the data feeding into it. Investing in strong data governance practices, including data quality and lineage, will make GDPR compliance more efficient and accurate.

Engage the whole organization: GDPR compliance software is not just an IT or legal initiative. Educate stakeholders in HR, marketing, product development and beyond on their roles and responsibilities in using the software to protect customer and employee data.

Design for the user: Choose compliance software with the end user in mind. Business users should be able to manage their GDPR tasks with minimal friction. Look for features like chatbots, mobile apps, and simplified workflows to drive adoption.

Continuously monitor and improve: GDPR compliance is an ongoing process. Use your software‘s reporting and analytics capabilities to track KPIs, identify gaps, and optimize performance over time. Stay up to date on evolving best practices and product enhancements.

By following these principles, compliance software can become more than just another tool, but a driver of cultural change that embeds privacy into everything your organization does.

The Future of GDPR Compliance Software

Looking ahead, the need for effective GDPR compliance software will only continue to grow. Consider these trends:

  • More enforcement: GDPR fines are projected to surge in the coming years as regulators ramp up enforcement. Gartner predicts GDPR fines will exceed €2 billion annually by 2023.

  • Rising consumer demands: Individuals are becoming more proactive in demanding transparency and control over their personal data. GDPR compliance software will be key to efficiently managing a growing volume of DSARs and consent requests.

  • Global regulation: GDPR has sparked a wave of similar laws worldwide, from Brazil‘s LGPD to California‘s CCPA/CPRA. Compliance software must evolve to address this increasingly fragmented regulatory landscape.

  • New technologies: Emerging innovations like AI, blockchain, and biometrics are stretching the boundaries of data protection. Compliance software will need to keep pace to properly assess and mitigate novel privacy risks.

  • Operational resilience: The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the need for strong data governance to support remote work and digital transformation. GDPR compliance software will play an important role in ensuring secure, compliant data practices in the next normal.

To stay ahead of these trends, look for GDPR compliance software that is constantly innovating. Providers like OneTrust, TrustArc, and BigID are heavily investing in R&D to integrate cutting-edge capabilities like AI-powered data discovery, automated risk assessments, and real-time monitoring into their platforms.

Ultimately, your GDPR compliance software should not just check the box on current requirements, but provide a future-proof foundation to confidently navigate the evolving data privacy landscape. By making this technology a core part of your privacy program now, you‘ll be well-positioned to build trusted, transparent relationships with customers, employees, and partners for years to come.