2020: The Year of Accessible Data Governance?
Don’t be put off by the jargon — it’s easier than you think
Many software vendors out there claim their products and services can do data governance for you.
Those of us that know better understand that’s not quite true.
Whilst the introduction of GDPR helped bring Data Governance into the spotlight, it’s really nothing new. I’ve been working in Data Governance for 17 years now. Initially, there were just a small number of us trying to do the “right thing” but shortly afterwards the Financial Services Regulators started to require that data used for regulatory reporting was subject to Data Governance. In more recent years many industries and companies have embraced it because they understand the value it brings to their business.
What is Data Governance?
Data Governance is much less a product or service, and more an abstract theory and innate understanding of the processes, rules, people and technology that surround data.
It can’t really be bought, so much as learned. With the help of Google, you can find many definitions of Data Governance. If you are really after a formal definition then this one from the DAMA Dictionary of Data Management is a good place to start: “The exercise of authority, control, and shared decision making (planning, monitoring and enforcement) over the management of data assets.”
But it doesn’t really explain why you would want to do Data Governance and how you would go about doing it.
Let’s start by looking at why you would want to do Data Governance. Well, quite simply you would want to do it to help your organisation meet the objectives laid out in its corporate strategy. That is what the senior stakeholders of your organisation are focussed on and trying to improve any data that does not feed into that is not going to get the buy-in and support that you need. So if your company wants to reduce costs, then helping reduce inefficiencies arising from poor data quality is a good place to start.
How you do this is by implementing a Data Governance Framework.
What is a Data Governance Framework?
A data governance framework is a structure put in place allowing organisations to proactively manage data quality. There is no one size fits all approach. For it to work, it must fit with the organisation’s culture, structure and practices. Having said that, the basic components of policy, processes and roles & responsibilities will be found in every framework.
Having a policy stating that your company will “do” data governance is a key part of the framework. Without it there will be no authority to change the way your organisation thinks about and manages its data.
In a few instances, progress without having a policy may be made when data governance is a key focus, however as future business priorities change it is likely that your initiative will slow or at worse be abandoned. Having a policy as part of your organisation’s risk management approach gives you the authority, and your stakeholders the requirement, to implement data governance.
These are the processes (and the deliverables arising out of those processes) which need to be followed in order to manage your data quality. They can include such things as data quality reporting and data quality issue management.
Having your processes defined and documented facilitates a consistent and repeatable approach to managing data across your organisation.
Roles and Responsibilities
The third vital component is to define who is responsible for data quality in your organisation and the scope and extent of their responsibilities.
How is it relevant to you today?
With data continuing to be one of the top concerns for businesses around the world, the skills of a Data Governance Manager, Analyst, consultant or contractor are more in demand than ever.
Given the proliferation of working from home and the current isolation-climate, it’s a great time to start learning more about data governance and applying what you learn to your career.
What to do next:
There are many credible experts on the topic of Data Governance who write here on Medium and over on Quora. It’s a good time to start following these people — look for those with DAMA accreditation, and if you’re in the industry, think about seeking it for yourself.