Data governance has become another trendy buzz-phrase among information technology professionals. Twenty years ago, it was a rarely heard term. Nowadays, there are professional societies, best practices, and annual professional conferences built around it. But what does it mean for you and your business?
According to Wikipedia, data governance “encompasses the people, processes, and information technology required to create a consistent and proper handling of an organization’s data across the business enterprise.” Properly framed, it involves data quality monitoring strategies, protocols for corrective action, and responsible stakeholders.
Put another way, data governance represents a recent framework for codifying something that has been important for businesses for many years – the quality of the data that drives their operations. This includes marketing leads, orders, customer information, and much more. It recognizes that bad data is not only a cost and service quality issue but something that should be understood and managed at a corporate level.
According to the Center for Innovative Technology, best practices for data governance start with organizational structure, from which specific policies, procedures, and metrics emerge. They recommend a formal data governance committee, reporting to executive management and overseeing the activities of working groups and specific data contributors. The Data Governance Institute’s Data Governance Framework describes this in terms of having a specified Data Governance Office operating between data stakeholders and the actual stewards of this data.
This eventually leads to specific data management tasks such as removing duplicates, validating and improving existing data with data quality tools, performing regular data quality maintenance, and tracking ROI. It has frankly been in the growth and development of such tools that the historical need for data quality has evolved into the profession of data governance. This, in turn, has helped improve data quality for marketing, sales, customer and other data – with immediate, tangible benefits in reducing errors and fraud, along with intangibles such as a strong service brand and satisfied customers.
Finally, here is a closing thought about data governance from the Data Governance Institute, on what they consider to be its most overlooked aspect: “Communication skills of those staff who sit at ground zero for data-related concerns and decisions. They need to be able to articulate many stakeholders’ needs and concerns and to describe them in many vehicles and mediums.” We agree. Policies are important, and tools are important. But at the end of the day, good communication among the stakeholders who work with your actual data is the glue that holds your data quality together.