Data governance is a business as well as an IT issue, but companies still struggle with its meaning.
Data governance is a data management discipline. It ensures that the data managed by an organization is available, usable, consistent, trusted and secure. In a majority of companies, IT is the principal steward of data. It is responsible for data governance. But do companies understand the full meaning of data governance? The answer is no.
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As far as we know, the term “data management,” of which data governance is an element, was first coined in the 1960s. This was after the hectic decade of the 1950s, when computers began to assume company processing duties and data began to accumulate. 70 years later, companies are still struggling with how they should be enforcing and conducting data management.
How to best utilize data governance
Ensure data availability
Whether an organization’s data is in an online server, the cloud or an offsite storage site, that data has to be available. For instance, if your organization is in a legal discovery process for a lawsuit and there is archived data on a tape in offsite storage, the assumption is that this tape is still readable and that the data is retrievable. IT is responsible for this.
Keep the data usable
All data under management should be able to be used in company business processes and applications. Data that is no longer used and that does not need to be archived should be discarded. This is generally accomplished with a set of data retention guidelines that IT and business users agree to and execute on a yearly basis.
Maintain data consistency
No matter which system or business process uses data, each data element should be uniform and consistent across all uses. A customer named John Campbell should be John Campbell in every system. To achieve data consistency, IT must clean, prepare and edit data so that all instances of John Campbell (such as Johnny Campbell or John K. Campbell) are consistently corrected to John Campbell.
Clean the data
When users and systems use data that has been properly cleaned and prepared, they believe in the data.
Bolster data security
IT ensures that all data under management is accessible, but there are limits. These limits come in the form of different levels of data permissions that are assigned to users and that are based on the data they need access to in order to do their jobs. Security measures and monitoring should be implemented to ensure that individuals outside of the enterprise do not gain access to corporate data without express permission.
What data governance isn’t
Data governance began as a political term that described the governance of data flows across country lines. While this is still a concern for organizations, the common business understanding today of data governance has more to do with how companies manage their internal data.
Data governance is not data architecture or data management
A data architect is responsible for designing an overall framework of hardware, software, data and business processes that support corporate-wide operations, but they are not specifically tasked with data governance. Data management is an overarching term that refers to all aspects of managing data. Data governance is just one aspect of it.
Data governance is not just IT’s responsibility
Too often, the task of data governance is consigned to IT, when it should be a board-level concern that might involve privacy and safety of customer information, data and intellectual property security, regulatory compliance, company reputation and even the ability of the business to operate.
By breaking down data governance into its individual components, companies can better understand what data governance is, what it is expected to achieve and why the entire business should be involved.