Colin Rickard: Data governance – misunderstood, but in demand

All too often, data governance is perceived as a one-off project that can be carried out over a finite period of time and will guarantee that all data thereafter is accurate. It is essential to the success of any data governance initiative that this misconception be dispelled: it is an ongoing process that centres around monitoring the content of data on an enterprise-wide scale.

Data governance does not encompass data security or archiving systems. It is about ensuring that data remains consistently high in quality and requires involvement and commitment across an organisation.

Although the economic downturn has seen cost-cutting across the board for most businesses, investment in data governance doesn’t appear to be on hold. Continued investment is explained by the tangible benefits of data governance. It allows organisations to improve operational efficiency and yield major cost reductions in doing so.

Furthermore, in a culture of increasing regulation across multiple industries, high quality data is fast becoming a necessity in order to remain compliant and avoid hefty fines. This was well-illustrated by a survey of UK financial services companies commissioned by DataFlux. When asked which factors were driving investment in data governance, compliance (73 per cent), operational efficiency (52 per cent) and competitive advantage (45 per cent) were the most popular answers.

One of the greatest barriers to an effective data governance regime is confusion surrounding who is in charge. It is not productive to drop data governance at the door of the IT department and expect operationally useful data to emerge. IT is responsible for the infrastructure surrounding data – security, storage, back-up – but has no way of ensuring that the content of the data is accurate and often doesn’t understand the type of data records the business needs.

Worryingly, the survey identified that 36 per cent of companies still assign data governance to the IT department and a further 16 per Colin Rickard, managing director, DataFlux UK cent said there was no one person with overall responsibility. Further studies are scheduled in France and Germany later in the year – it will certainly be interesting to learn if the culture of misunderstanding that often surrounds data governance is a Europe-wide phenomenon or localised in the UK.

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