[Free Guide] How to choose the right privacy management solution for your organization

How to select the best privacy data mapping software

Considering a data map project for your privacy program? Software can be a great help if you know how to evaluate. Here's your guide.
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So you’ve decided to launch a data mapping project. You’ve got budget and buy-in from company leaders and are ready to get a handle on personal data across the business. But now you’re stuck at the starting line.

Do you need software? And if so, how on earth will you pick the right one?

In today’s noisy privacy software market, making the right choice for your org can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be difficult. At Ketch, we’ve seen many brands struggle with this decision. Some end up selecting Ketch for data mapping, some don’t–and that’s ok! What’s important is selecting the best tool for YOU and your business requirements. 

Keep reading for an essential guide to these questions:

  • What are the key signs that it’s time to purchase data mapping software? 
  • What should I be able to answer about my business before I start talking to vendors? 
  • What problems can data mapping software solve for, and what’s wishful thinking? 
  • Plus–a roundup of essential considerations to keep in mind during vendor evaluations 💡

From understanding the scope of your project to getting your expectations straight, read this to feel completely prepared to navigate the data mapping landscape. 

When is it time to invest in software?

Depending on the size of your project or company, it might be possible to keep up with manual data mapping, via spreadsheets or otherwise. However, chances are a data mapping tool will be a big relief. Here are a four key turning points that should trigger the start of a software search:

1. You’ve tried manual data projects multiple times.

If you’ve tried and failed at data mapping in the past, it might be time to take your infrastructure up a notch by engaging data mapping software. While manual data mapping can work for extremely small and simple companies, if you’re a larger or evolving company — your manual data mapping will probably continue to fail.

2. You feel like your output is going stale.

Data mapping requires constant upkeep. Because your data is always growing and changing, if you don’t have an automated solution, it’s easy for your output to become outdated. Manual data map updating is a massive time drain, so investing in a tool is a smart allocation of resources.

3. You have 3 or more people working on the initiative.

If data mapping is a priority to your business, you’re going to have a larger team dedicated to making it happen. However, a larger team also proves that data mapping is worth resource investment. The smartest way to take advantage of your resources is to engage software to carry some of the load for you and your team.

4. You want better reporting and you find yourself asking questions about the data you have.

If you’re looking at your data and feeling confused or hoping to get a better answer to some of your data-related questions, grabbing a data mapping software is a great start to gaining clarity. 

Questions to answer before you start your software search

The first step to finding the right tool isn’t to start scheduling calls with every data mapping software on the market. Instead, you’ll need to answer a few questions internally about your company’s data mapping needs and wants.

What matters more: breadth or depth?

While every company wants a magic bullet solution that offers total breadth and depth, the reality is that you’re going to have some trade-offs. Sit down with your team and identify the core issues you want to solve. 

Do you want a broader-reaching data map that lacks some detail, or would you prefer a deep dive into a few of your databases? Knowing your breadth versus depth priorities will help lead your software decision-making.

Where does your data live?

Where your data lives will dictate what software pairs well with your data organization. Does your data live in SaaS applications, or is it all in a simple database? How many different applications are you using? You’ll want to be clear about your data storage before heading into software conversations.

What is your primary issue or challenge?

Again, while it’s every company’s dream to find an all-encompassing software that checks every box, it’s just not the reality of the data mapping landscape. Certain software addresses some concerns better than others, so clarity on your primary challenge is important. Here are a few potential priorities your company may have:

  • Reporting. You’re interested in getting the most information from the data you’ve collected and channeled into your data map. You want to slice and dice it, interrogate it, and pull analyses out of your data at every level.
  • Discovery. You want a high-level understanding of the data you’ve collected. What pools of data has your company collected? You want to see it laid out in a broad, but not particularly deep, manner.
  • Collaboration. You want your data to aid in collaborative efforts between stakeholders in different departments. You’d like to optimize processes and facilitate a smooth workflow with your data map. 

Clarifying your priorities is going to help drive decisive software conclusions. By identifying what you’d really like your tool to do, you and your team can move through the weeds quickly to identify the right tool for your company. 

What can—and can’t—you do with data mapping software?

Before you start exploring the software market, it’s important to understand the reality of data mapping tools. Especially if data and data mapping are outside your area of expertise, understanding software abilities and limitations is a valuable way to appropriately align your expectations. While innovation is always happening, here’s a quick overview of the state of data mapping tools in 2024.

What can data mapping software do?

  • Data discovery
  • Data classification
  • Data categorization
  • Discovery for residency
  • Prioritization of work
  • Facilitation of human workflow and collaboration
  • Unstructured data discovery

An important note on the last bullet: unstructured data discovery. While some data mapping software is capable of conducting unstructured data discovery, it can be cost-prohibitive depending on your expectations for scope. If you have expectations of reading every line of text in every PDF document, be prepared to pay a very high cost. It’s worth considering if taking a sample from various locations will satisfy your need to evaluate the risk. 

What can’t data mapping software do?

Auto data flow maps.

Because your data ecosystem likely exists in multiple spaces, it’s nearly impossible for software to build an automated data flow map. This is often a buyer's expectation, and it’s important that you understand the difficulty of this task and the likelihood that your tool will not be able to do it. If a vendor tells you this is possible, you need to dig into the details. In nearly all cases, it’s simply not a realistic expectation in the face of modern business data locations and complexity. 

Knowledge of business context.

No matter how smart the tool is, it won’t know your exact company’s comprehensive business context. Human participation in your data mapping remains a must, even after software implementation.

Auto building assessments (e.g. DPIA).

As is the case with business context limitations, your data map tool cannot automatically fill out assessments. Answers are subjective, so it’s unrealistic to expect a machine to be able to produce automated responses.

Useful “magic” risk scores.

Loads of tools promise risk assessments, and many can be beneficial. However, we’re generally skeptical of a simple risk score that promises to capture all the complexities of your data map.

Essential reminders for the vendor evaluation process

Now that you have a good idea of your company’s priorities and a strong handle on realistic expectations for technology capabilities, it’s time to head into conversations with data mapping software vendors. As you start lining up demo calls and enrolling stakeholders, it’s easy to get caught up in shiny objects and interesting features. But remember! Shiny objects don’t matter if they don’t come back to your specific challenges. 

Throughout your evaluation, keep one guiding question at the forefront of your mind: What is the problem we’re trying to solve? 

Here are a few other considerations as you dive into the weeds of privacy data mapping tool evaluation:

  1. What specific system and app integrations does your company need? Is the tool compatible with the SaaS products you use for data storage?
  2. Do you have alignment on an implementation roadmap? Is your vision compatible with the tool’s vision? 
  3. How is the SaaS company showing up throughout the sales process? Are they responsive and easy to reach? Do they care about your pain points? The way they show up throughout the sales process is a good indicator of the support you’ll receive once you sign on.
  4. What’s the size of the data mapping company? Early-stage companies are generally faster in innovation but can be less stable. Late-stage companies are more stable, but can sometimes be rigid.
  5. Consider data mapping versus data discovery for your needs. Do you need an entire map? Or do you just need a clear conception of your discovery input? 
  6. Do you know how you’ll operationalize the software in the context of your own business? Consider the complexity of your company as a factor in realizing success.

How Ketch can help 

Navigating the data mapping market can be intimidating. As you examine your company’s data mapping needs, consider including Ketch data mapping in your tool evaluation. If your must-have list includes automated system discovery, enabling ROPA completion, and integration with consent management tools, Ketch could be a great choice. Schedule a demo with us to learn more. 

Read time
7 min read
March 4, 2024
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