Your People Are What Makes Data Governance Work

In the data-driven world of business in the 21st Century, organizations are challenged with using their information resources as productively as possible. A failure to make constructive use of the information residing in corporate databases puts an enterprise at a distinct disadvantage. Rivals who make better use of their data will quickly gain a competitive advantage which may be insurmountable. 

One of the methods with which to address this need to use information efficiently is data governance. Data governance is sometimes seen as a rather vague term because it has been defined in multiple ways. A short but sweet definition from IBM that I like calls data governance the political process of changing organizational behavior to enhance and protect data as a strategic enterprise asset.

This definition highlights the fact that implementing data governance is not an exercise that can be performed by technical means alone. There are certainly many processes that need to be put in place which require software tools and modifying data handling procedures. But for a data governance program to really work, it needs to address the human factors that can impede its creation. Having the right people driving a data governance initiative is critical for its success.

Benefits of Data Governance

One might wonder why go through the trouble of implementing data governance. What are the benefits to an organization? Are they worth the potential changes to the corporate culture as it pertains to handling data resources? A quick look at some of the advantages that can be attained through data governance should answer those questions. 

  • The elimination of data silos is key to the productive use of information assets. Data trapped in a departmental silo cannot be used by other parts of the organization. This can lead to miscommunication that negates the company’s ability to function efficiently.

  • Insights about enterprise data can be shared more effectively when all parties are reading from the same playbook. Analysis performed by one department can be extremely relevant to other areas of the company and more easily distributed through data governance. Collaboration throughout the organization adds value to data resources.

  • Clean data has had any inaccuracies removed so users of the information are assured of its quality. The shared responsibility that data governance fosters keeps everyone involved in the process of data cleansing to provide the most accurate and more useful information for all parts of the organization.

Filling Data Governance Roles

The individuals who make up a data governance team will, in large part, determine the success or failure of the program. Several well-defined roles need to be filled for a governance initiative to be effective.

  • Steering Committee - The steering committee sets the program’s strategy and defines the desired outcomes. It is often made up of executive leaders and is tasked with supporting the work of data stewards. One of the initial responsibilities is to take down the barriers between business units that lead to data silos. 

  • Data Owners - Data owners are responsible for the data within a specific domain. Some of the activities carried out by data owners include approving data glossaries and definitions. They need to ensure the accuracy of the data domain for which they are accountable so it can be used effectively across the enterprise. Data owners from different business units work together to eliminate discrepancies in how information is seen and used by everyone in the organization. 

  • Data Stewards - Data stewards are the subject matter experts for a particular data domain. They handle the daily management of data assets and work with other stewards to resolve any issues that arise. Data stewards need to work across business units to ensure that their domain’s information is managed and understood correctly.

Implementing Data Governance

A data governance program begins with a foundation formed by the creation of a common language around an organization’s data assets. Collaboration is vitally important in defining this language, as diverse parts of an enterprise may initially have very different views on specific data items. An IDERA whitepaper is available that takes a close look at the human factors involved in implementing data governance. It covers issues like the resistance to change that can make it hard to successfully implement data governance. The paper brings up some interesting points that can help you with your organization’s data governance program.

Some of the overriding technical challenges of creating a shared data language can be addressed with ER/Studio Enterprise Team Edition. It provides the data governance team with a collaborative tool with which to build the foundation of the program.  Real-time collaboration is possible with a shared data repository that facilitates change and version management. Enterprise data glossaries and definitions are available for use throughout a company, making it easier to make the behavioral changes necessary for viable data governance. The tool is an excellent complement to the human components of your enterprise data governance strategy. 

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