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Organisations are increasingly recognising data as a strategic asset. From enabling data-driven decision-making to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the possibilities of unlocking the power of data seem endless.  This potential is what’s causing almost all organisations to aim for what you might call a “Data Utopia” – a state of optimal data management and utilisation – but often organisations tend to overlook the foundations needed to get it right.

When we talk about the foundations, one of them that is often overlooked is data governance. Historically data governance has been viewed as a defensive protection mechanism, which is true to some extent but there is more to it than that. Data governance is critical in making data available to be used to create business value.

Before we discuss why data governance is a key foundation, there are two questions we need to consider.

  1. What do we want to achieve from the use of data – what’s the outcome we’re looking for?As businesses, we make decisions every single day and without the data to back up these decisions, they’re done on a gut feel or a best guess.  Ultimately people want to make business decisions faster, with greater accuracy and less risk.  This could translate to data-driven decision such as stock ordering based on sales forecasts, recruitment needs based on project volumes and levels of effort, or in some niche industries like sports, whether a player is rested or trains/plays.
  2. The second question then becomes, what characteristics does my data need to have to make this possible. Simply, it needs four core characteristics.
    • It needs to be accessible – users need to be able to find and access the data.
    • It needs to be understood – people need to know what the data is that they’re using with a common understanding.
    • They need to know where it comes from and who owns it.
    • They need to be able to trust it.

If the data users can’t find the data easily, don’t know what it is or where it’s come from, and don’t trust it, quite simply they won’t use it. Data governance is what enables to give your data these characteristics.

How does data governance help?

Data governance gives organisations the ability to identify and understand their data and its pipeline, as well as providing them with a control framework needed to manage and secure their data . How does data governance enable that? Let’s take a look: 

  • Improved data quality: Data quality is part of a data governance framework. As part of the implementation of data quality capabilities, organisations can establish data quality metrics, validation rules, and data cleansing procedures, leading to the identification and rectification of errors, inconsistencies, and redundancies in datasets. Through continuous monitoring (or observability) and enforcement of data governance policies, organisations can also improve the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of their data, facilitating data trust, and ultimately improving the accuracy of data driven decision making.
  • Better data accessibility: Data governance plays a crucial role in ensuring that data is readily accessible to authorised users across the organisation. How? By defining clear roles, responsibilities, and access controls, data governance frameworks enable efficient data sharing and collaboration while safeguarding against unauthorised access or misuse. This is typically done through the use of data catalogues, metadata management, and data stewardship programs. For most organisations, this is often accompanied by a business glossary to drive a common understanding over the meaning of the data in the catalogue. Returning to the core characteristics that we discussed earlier, this combination provides data users with the ability to find the data and understand what it is / what it means to ensure they’re using the right data as part of their processes.
  • Optimising data pipelines: Data governance helps organisations streamline and optimise their data pipelines by establishing standardised processes and best practices for data integration, transformation, and movement. By defining data governance policies around data ingestion, transformation, and delivery, organisations can ensure consistency, reliability, and efficiency across their data pipelines. Typically, we accomplish this through the use of data lineage. Through the optimisation of data pipelines, organisations can accelerate time-to-insight, speed the time it takes to resolve data pipeline issues and enhance overall data processing efficiency.
  • Enhanced privacy: In an era of increasing data privacy regulations and concerns, data governance helps in ensuring compliance and safeguarding sensitive information. By defining policies, procedures, and controls around data access, usage, and protection, data governance frameworks help organisations mitigate privacy risks and uphold confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. Through the implementation of data governance practices such as data classification, encryption, and anonymisation, organisations can minimise the risk of data breaches and unauthorised disclosures, thereby enhancing privacy protection for individuals and maintaining trust with stakeholders. Additionally, it fosters transparency and accountability in data handling practices, enabling organisations to demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards related to data privacy.

Final thoughts

In summary, data governance can play an important role in getting organisations to data utopia by providing a better understanding of the data, improving the accessibility of data, driving data quality, optimising data pipelines and providing the guardrails needed to apply the right privacy and governance controls to keep data safe and secure. Once these foundational elements are in place, organisations can begin to explore advanced analytics, like predictive modelling and machine learning, to extract deeper insights and drive more sophisticated data-driven strategies.

With the right data governance programme in place, organisations can seize control of their data, ensuring it works for them rather than against them, and unlocking its full potential as a strategic business asset.

If your organisation is navigating the complex waters of data governance, our team of experts stand ready to help. Reach out to us for assistance in crafting a data governance strategy that aligns with your organisation’s objectives.

 

Lee Biggenden

Lee, the Co-founder and Managing Director of Nephos, brings a wealth of experience and a pioneering spirit to the forefront of data system integration. Lee's thought leadership content offers invaluable insights into transforming data storage, processing, governance, and protection. Through his writings, Lee shares the latest trends, challenges and advancements in the data technology landscape - helping organisations to not only adapt but thrive in the digital era.

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