As you well know, data is of ever-increasing importance to businesses across all industries. To put it simply, businesses run on information. Data is the heart of your business and without an effective data governance policy in place, you are taking risks with the quality of the information and insights you need to make the informed decisions that keep it running smoothly.
That is why data governance plays such an important role in your organization's data management strategy. Data governance allows you to detect and proactively mitigate inconsistencies in the information your key systems like logistics, sales, and customer service rely upon to perform effectively. It ensures the integrity of your critical information like customer names and addresses, which of your products an individual customer may own, and customer status information like service records or software license validity periods. Then there is the data that dictates and informs how you produce and deliver products in the first place.
Without proper data governance, you will never find yourself in a position to locate and address shortcomings in your master data. Unaddressed, from a data management perspective, these integrity issues will hamper your data initiatives down the line -- complicating future data integration initiatives, affecting the accuracy of your enterprise reporting, and compromising your business intelligence (BI) efforts. From a business perspective, running on incorrect information will eventually cost you money, clients, or both.
Essentially, data governance occurs at a high level in your organization. It involves implementing internal data standards, policies, and procedures that maintain your data’s integrity and ensure it is trustworthy, available, usable, and secure. Data governance is also about controlling exactly how your data is used and making sure it is not misused.
A well-designed data governance program typically has three tiers. These involve a governance team, a steering committee, and a group of data stewards. The three groups work in concert to create, implement and enforce data standards and policies across your organization.
The data program manager heads a data governance team dedicated solely to that task. The governance team coordinates the data capture process. It leads meetings and training sessions, tracks metrics, manages internal communications, and carries out other management tasks related to your data initiatives. What they don’t do is establish policy or standards decisions.
The Data Governance Steering Committee is the team that actually establishes your data governance policy. It consists of stakeholders within your organization -- business executives and other data owners. They establish and approve your foundational policies and establish rules governing data access and usage. They also establish the procedures for implementing them. When disputes arise between stakeholders within the business, for example, disagreements between different business units over data definitions and formats, the steering committee intervenes to establish solutions and ensure the integrity of your master data.
Finally, there are the data stewards, they are the front line in your organizational data structure. Where data governance is high-level, defining policies and procedures, data stewards are tactical, hands-on. Without proper stewardship, the efforts of the governance and steering committees are moot. Data stewards ensure that the management of all data within and used by your enterprise occurs according to the rules established by your data governance program. Read more about data stewardship and the role of the data steward here.
Data governance and data stewardship are opposite sides of the same coin - the former establishes standards and the latter enforces them. The ways your organization benefits are numerous.
The primary benefit is that of improved data quality including solid documentation of the data available within the enterprise. Clear, concise, and well-enforced data policies increase the efficiency and accuracy of your business intelligence and analytics programs and allow you to more frequently put your data to the task of providing insights that inform organizational decisions without fear of error.
Finally, an effective data governance and data stewardship program ensures that your data remains secure and compliant with government regulations surrounding privacy and other issues.
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