Data Governance: Why You Need It & How To Get Started Today

By - April 27, 2020

When searching through the abyss of the internet for “data governance”, it can be overwhelming. The questions come pouring out: What is data governance? How can my organization benefit from the implementation of a Data Governance program? How do I “do” data governance? Answers to these common questions are spread across the Internet, sometimes difficult to uncover and synthesize. Look no further, you’ve come to the right place. This post will allow you to discover simple and actionable answers to all things data governance.

 What is Data Governance?

Data governance can be overwhelming as it impacts all areas across the business.  The Data Governance Institute (DGI) defines it as “a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.” This complex and jargon-filled definition can be broken down into one simple idea. Data Governance is a process made up of rules and principles that defines how data is handled. Though, you do not need to use this definition as your “all-in” definition of what governance is. Your organization’s standards and rules may differ from the business across the street because the goals of each business are different. Short- and long-term goals that are decided upon will drive the definition and program of data governance in your business.

Typically, when a business wants to pursue a data governance initiative, the first step is to put a program in place. A typical governance program includes a variety of different IT people, key stakeholders, and day-to-day business users.  These programs will vary depending on the size of the company and its data complexity. However, at the end of the day, all governance programs share common goals and key themes.

What Are the Goals/Benefits of Data Governance?

Why should you care about governance? What’s in it for you? Governance programs, when implemented alongside a full BI reporting data warehouse, will allow you and your business to totally transform the way you take data in, utilize it, and leverage it for reporting and analysis. The more you commit to a data governance program, the more you will get out of it.

There are many goals for a data governance program, and I have outlined a few below:

  • Data Management: This represents the processes that ensure reference data is kept up to date and coordinated across an enterprise.
  • Data Cleansing: Clean data in means clean data out (reporting). Cleansed and defined data allows for stronger reporting capabilities and data-driven decision making. Remember, bad data in means bad data out.
  • Data Quality: This is the degree to which data is accurate, complete, timely, consistent with all requirements and business rules, and relevant for a given use.
  • Data Security: Governance programs ensure privacy and confidentiality while preventing unauthorized inappropriate use of data and information.
  • Standard Operating Procedures: Having these in place will give specific guidance for your organization. These procedures would include managing data and report sharing across your organization, establishing processes for your organization to adhere to, and provide business users with a governed foundation of approved IT policies.
  • Formalized Business Structure: Data governance programs allow you to restructure roles around data. This includes roles like data stewards, data experts, and data governors. Having a formalized program and structure in places allows a business to take control over who has access to what data and when.

After understanding the importance and goals of data governance, the benefits of establishing a data governance program become clearer. Clean, structured, and defined data in leads to stronger reporting, analysis, and business decisions. These improved decisions can generate higher profitability. Not to mention governance programs often cause process improvements, leading to more satisfied and content employees.

This all sounds great, but what next? Governance is an ongoing process, but there are a few quick wins to get you started.

  • Get the Business and IT involved: It takes the effort and dedication of all stewards to ensure good results. Change is inevitable and change is difficult for people. It will be slow and challenging, but it takes everyone’s participation.
  • Establish frameworks and policies: Putting rules and policies in place for everyone to follow is a key part of governance programs. Here are some actionable steps to get started:
    • Create your charter: This is the goal in which you want your data and standards to adhere to
    • Determine what the core goal is: Every program has a core goal they want to achieve, for example, “Ensuring data is accurate, valid, and continuously managed”
    • Determine who your core team of data stewards are: Those subject matter experts who own data and its validity
    • Define your data: What does your data mean to your business. How is your organization using and reporting off of this data? The definitions should be consistent across all business users
    • Establish Controls: Ensuring data stays cleaned and managed, continuously
    • Communicate change: Governance programs require change, be sure to communicate it across the business early and often
  • Keep it going: Governance is not a short-term process for your business. It takes time and is an ongoing activity for the business. It takes time to get everyone on board with the rules, so get creative and find ways to keep people incentivized to keep participating.

Governance is an ongoing, repetitive process that ensures continuous management and control around your organization’s most important asset, data. It is a combined effort across an organization that allows teams to bridge their communication gaps and offer a transparent, structured, and standardized way of managing its data and processes.

Data governance allows organizations to take control of their data and data-related assets. You will not only have the power to make actionable decisions, but you will be able to trust the decisions you are making. Through the use of structured programs, established rules, and cleaned, managed, and secure data, you will have the power to transform the way you do business.

If you have any further questions or are looking for further guidance, literature, etc., please reach out to the BI Team and RSM!

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