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Why is Data Governance important?

Jul 24, 2020 4:04:00 PM

As data has becomes a mission-critical business asset, data governance has gone from nice-to-have to must-have. This article outlines what data governance is, why it is important and how to start your own data governance initiative.

Data, a blessing and a curse

Data is everywhere. Businesses generate data on performance, from customers and clients, from services and surveys. Employees generate their own data and their activity is logged in personnel records. Ever greater quantities of real-time data are now collected from sensors and video.

Increasingly, businesses are generating real value from collecting, storing and analysing data. The more well-organised and high-quality data is, the greater the derived value. A New Zealand transportation company used historical data, from internal and external sources, to plan new routes. They were able to optimise their network without labour-and-time intensive market research.

Data can deliver tremendous benefits to a company, but it can also cause problems. Important business decisions can be driven by incorrect analysis from low-quality data. Inconsistent approaches to data-handling can cause unintegrated siloes, locking data into limited business questions, unavailable for wider analysis. Security breaches that expose critical business data or private customers and client information have even destroyed some businesses.

Benefits of data governance

Problems with data can be solved with data governance. Rules, policies and practices can ensure data is high-quality, useful, available and secure. Your business can avoid common data issues and reap the benefits of the data it holds.

Data governance improves the productivity of data workers by ensuring the availability, reliability and relevance of the data they depend on. When employees can access meaningful, business-critical data easily they are enabled and empowered. Accessible, high-quality data can illuminate business processes, allowing operating costs to be reduced.

Critically, data governance helps you secure your data. Security breaches have cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars. Fines and penalties are a cost on top of losses incurred from the breach itself. Good data governance protects your data, your interests and your customers’ interests. Customer have more loyalty and trust increases when they know their data is looked-after.

What is data governance?

The following definitions from thought-leaders in the field address various perspectives:

  • Gartner defines data governance as “the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure the appropriate behaviour in the valuation, creation, consumption and control of data and analytics.”
  • DAMA International has defined data governance as “the exercise of authority and control (planning, monitoring, and enforcement) over the management of data assets.”
  • Talend defines data governance as “a collection of processes, roles, policies, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.”

The OSS Group approach to data governance spans three key investments: a policy framework - designed by and agreed upon by data stakeholders – that declares rules for how data is treated and maintained; an implementation plan for the application of those policies – how data is recorded, maintained, secured and accessed; a commitment to ongoing review of the framework and implementation plan to ensure they are meeting the business’s objectives.

How to approach data governance

Key details of data governance must be addressed to ensure the policy framework and implementation plan are aligned with your specific business objectives. We address the key elements of data governance in another post, but here’s a brief overview to get you thinking.

Most importantly, the business objective/s and the stakeholders must be identified. Beyond that, data taxonomy, quality and required security needs to be agreed. Rules and systems for accessing data need to be established. The technology and personnel responsible for input, storage and analysis must be decided upon and systems implemented. 

This list of tasks may seem daunting. Data governance does take time, effort, coordination and thought. However, there is nothing wrong with starting small. Picking a single pain point, objective or system and designing a mini-framework allows an easy entry. Starting small-scale gives more immediate results and provides confidence for building out data governance more widely.

We are here to help

OSS Group has helped organisations and businesses design, assess, improve and implement data governance. Whatever your size and however mature your current practices are, we can provide the necessary expertise that will progress your data governance. Learn more about how we approach data governance with our clients here and please do contact us if you have any questions.

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