Data governance, the answer to a good night’s sleep

Companies are facing increasing challenges when it come to managing data. Compliance with new legislation, demands placed by new technologies and increasingly sophisticated customer needs are factors that all put pressure on data managers and IT departments to deliver a consistently reliable data infrastructure. As well as these reactive forces that push data quality and data integration to centre stage, boardrooms are beginning to realise that data is a corporate asset, and it can release important competitive advantages if it is correctly managed.  So, pressure to deliver a better data management strategy is coming from the top down too.

In this environment, are we offering the people at the data coalface the high-level management support required to meet these expectations? In many cases, I fear not. Defining data values, gaining funding and championing data quality and integration projects all require cooperation, careful planning and the strategic involvement of different business functions, plus senior sponsorship. Often it‘s management culture and a lack of senior understanding that holds projects back, not technology or its implementation, although both can be culprits.

Data governance is an emerging concept gaining significant traction in the US and now in the UK that promises to rectify this situation. A good definition is provided by Baseline Consulting, a US-based consultancy firm, who describe data governance as “a decision-making and oversight process that prioritises investments, allocates resources, and monitors results to ensure the data being managed and deployed on projects is valued, aligned with corporate objectives, leveraged to support business objectives.”  Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Essentially data governance is going back to basics, asking the most fundamental questions to ensure objectives are met – can we monitor the quality of our data? Do we have a team assigned to meeting that target? Do we have the business understanding to define appropriate business rules?

We are seeing growing interest in data governance as a concept and many organisations are establishing data governance policies and teams to great effect. This must be good news for every data professional who feels the pressure mounting and the support sadly lacking. I say embrace this new concept; learn about it, engage with it and the benefits may extend beyond a greater understanding of customers, improved business processes and competitive advantage. You might just sleep a little easier as well.

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