If your company is using data you need Data Governance. Some people may not believe that Data Governance is sexy, but it is essential for every org. It doesn’t need to be a complex issue that adds controls and obstacles to getting things done. Data Governance consulting and the application of data governance policy should be a practical approach, designed to proactively manage the data that is most important.
In this blog, we are going to look at why your org. should be jumping at the chance to introduce data governance. When we tell people what we do, we get a mixed response. Some people seem genuinely surprised that everyone isn’t already doing Data Governance, and an awful lot of people ask why would you need that?
A few years ago the main driver of Data Governance initiatives as regulatory compliance and while that is definitely still a factor, there is a move towards companies embracing Data Governance for the business value which it can enable. For example, if your company is starting a digital transformation or wants to become “data-driven”, you are not going to be successful if your data is currently not well understood, managed, and is of poor quality (dirty data).
If you embrace Data Governance and achieve better quality data, many benefits begin to appear. But you don’t have to take our word for it; take a look at the DAMA DMBoK Wheel:
As you can see, it lists all the Data Management disciplines around the outside of the wheel. There in the middle, at the heart of it all, is Data Governance because it provides the foundation for all other data management disciplines.
Let’s look at a few of these disciplines to illustrate the point:
Without Data Governance all data quality efforts tend to be tactical at best. This means a company will be constantly cleaning or fixing data, perhaps adding default values when a key field has been left blank. With Data Governance in place, you will have processes, roles, and responsibilities to ensure that the root causes of poor data quality are identified and fixed so that data cleansing is not necessary on an on-going basis.
REFERENCE AND MASTER DATA
Anyone who has been involved in any master data projects will have no doubt heard or read numerous dire warnings about the dangers of attempting these without having Data Governance in place. While I am not a fan of wholesale scaremongering to get people to embrace Data Governance, these warnings are genuine.
For master data projects to be successful, you need data owners identified and definitions of all the fields involved drafted and agreed, as well as processes for how suspect matches will be dealt with. Without these things (which of course Data Governance provides) you are likely to be faced with a mess of under, over, or mismatching!
Of course, Data Security is primarily an IT managed area, but it makes things a lot easier to manage consistently if there are agreed Data Owners in place to make decisions on who should and should not have access to a given set of data.
I hope you agree that these examples and explanations make sense, but don’t forget that is a theory, and explaining this in data management terms to your senior stakeholders in order to get agreement to start a Data Governance initiative is unlikely to be successful. Instead, you are going to need to explain it in terms of the benefits it will bring. The primary reason to do Data Governance is to improve the quality of data. So the benefits of Data Governance are those things that will improve if the quality of your data improves. This can cover a whole myriad of areas including the following:
Have a look around your company. How many creative workarounds exist due to data issues? What costs could be reduced if all the manual cleansing and fixing of data were reduced or totally removed?
We have to assume that the senior management in your Org. intends to make the best decisions. But what happens if they make those decisions based on reports that contain poor quality data? Better quality data leads to more accurate reporting.
Very few companies operate in an industry that does not have to comply with some regulations, and many regulations now require that you manage your data better such as the California Consumer Privacy Act in the US or GDPR in the EU. Take GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation), it impacts everyone who holds data on European Union Citizens (customers and employees) and having a solid Data Governance Framework in place will enable you to manage your data better and meet regulatory requirements.
So, at this point, you are probably thinking, “isn’t it just a generic best practice thing that everyone ought to do?” And the answer is, yes – I do believe that every company could benefit from having a Data Governance Framework that is appropriate for its needs.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T HAVE DATA GOVERNANCE?
Well I’ll leave that to you have a look around you and decide what the likely consequences for your company could be, but it is usually the opposite of the benefits that can be achieved.
Remember data is used for dealing with your customers, making decisions, generating reports, understanding revenue, and expenditures. Everyone from the Customer Service Team to your Senior Executive Team uses data and relies on it being good enough to use.
Data Governance provides the foundation so that everything else can work. This will include obvious “data” activities like Master Data Management, Business Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. But don’t get stuck thinking only in terms of data. Lots of processes in your Company can go wrong if the data is wrong, leading to customer complaints, damaged stock, and halted production lines. Don’t limit your thinking to only data activities.