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Sustainable Data Governance

The usage of the term data governance might be second only to the amount of digital data generated. Though widely used, the term means different things for different stakeholders. This situation is not unique to any one company or sector.

Data Governance: Some common contexts

Teams trying to build business intelligence and analytics capabilities struggle with data quality and getting to a single version of the truth around data (a golden record). Seemingly simple BI tasks become complex when accounting for exception after exception. To people struggling with this or other master data challenges, governance is a way to ensure data quality.

From a compliance perspective, governance means making sure the company is complying with all regulatory requirements and ensuring the burden to comply is reduced. Companies dealing with PII and confidential customer data experience these challenges every day. The situation becomes more complex with differing regulatory requirements across multiple countries.

Even within a single function, governance can mean different things. Some IT teams view governance as means to manage the exploding data volumes across disparate data sources and reducing the overall data footprint. A team focused on master data accuracy might view governance differently. From an IT security viewpoint, governance is about ensuring data is kept secure. These teams would be thinking about how to ensure company crown jewels do not get into the wrong hands or how to secure externally hosted data. Here, governance would focus on processes to address different aspects of cyber security.

Sustainable Data Governance

Governance is all of the above and more – much like the Indian story of an elephant being described by people touching different parts of the elephant with their eyes closed. While the description of any individual part will be accurate, the total package is much more.

Maintaining just the different perspectives on governance without a companywide, common, and shared understanding of governance is not good. This impacts the overall risk profile around data and runs up costs around data governance. Governance efforts get duplicated and many times even occur concurrently. These efforts also get implemented as isolated projects without a larger strategic vision around how data should be managed.

Companies are trying to unlock the potential of their data but are only scratching the surface without proper governance. Governance done right can make a company’s data one of its most valuable assets. For data governance to be sustainable and company-wide, a change in culture and a more strategic approach to managing data are required. Are organizations ready to embrace this change?


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