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In 1516, Sir Thomas More wrote a book called Utopia, in which he described a perfect,  imaginary world set on an island where a complex, self-contained community lived. The people who lived there shared a common culture and way of life, where everything in Utopia was public property. 

More’s version of Utopia isn’t too different from what we’re trying to create with data today.  

Organisations are moving to a world where they create data products for the business to consume and where data is readily available and accessible to all who need it. As businesses we want to enable our users to positively impact the business through data. 

At a macro level, organisations want to achieve three key things: 

  • Make business decisions with accuracy and speed based on data 
  • Enable data scientists and analytics teams to be more effective 
  • Leverage advanced analytics and new technology capabilities like AI 

To enable these things, we need high-quality data (if it’s not and users don’t trust it, they’ll stop using it) that is easily accessible and that users can ideally have self-serve access to in a controlled way. 

Data Characteristics  

On the face of it, breaking down the barriers and opening up our data to an open and shared model sounds straightforward, but in reality, it’s incredibly complex. The data users have questions, like: where’s the data? How good is the data?  Where did it come from?  Are we allowed to use it? How do we manage it?  The list goes on. 

To make this dream a reality, the data itself needs to have the following specific characteristics: 

  1. Well Defined: Data needs to be well defined and understood so that data users understand the data that they’re using. 
  2. Accessible: Users need to be able to find the data easily. 
  3. Trusted: Data needs to be of good quality and provenance. 
  4. Compliant: Data must be compliant so that we’re not breaking regulations or legislation and exposing the business to risk if we’re making it available to our data users. 

Without these core characteristics, the likelihood is that data projects will fail to live up to expectations, and in some cases fail altogether. If your data users can’t find the correct data readily or they can’t trust it, there’s little hope of succeeding. 

Governance Underpins Data Utopia  

Data Governance can often have a negative perception and be seen as a roadblock to allowing people to leverage their data. This perception is far from the truth. 

Data governance as an overall capability is a prerequisite to answering our data users’ questions and enabling the data to have these characteristics. Simply put: 

  • Making data well-defined or making sure that the data is understood is a function of a business glossary. 
  • To make data accessible and to be able to self-serve the data, you need to have a data catalogue in place. 
  • When we talk about data trust, organisations will leverage data quality and lineage capabilities to help achieve this. 
  • To ensure we’re compliant and preserve our privacy controls, we need the data to implement data classification and data management capabilities. If the data is not understood, the likelihood of managing it correctly is slim. 

In essence, data governance capabilities enable us to identify and understand our data, make it available to data users with a degree of trust based on the data quality and its pipeline, and give us a control framework that is a prerequisite to opening up our data. 

Sunil Soares, the founder of Information Asset, says, “Data Governance is the foundation for trusted data, and trusted data is the foundation for informed decisions.” For some, this is what Data Utopia means, but whatever your view of data utopia is, it’s clear that data governance will play a critical role. 

At Nephos, we combine technical expertise and the strategic business value of traditional professional service providers to deliver innovative data solutions. Our data governance services ensure your data is well-defined, accessible, trusted, and compliant, enabling accurate decision-making and advanced analytics. Click here to know more.

If you are not ready to reach out yet, here are some resources that could support in your data governance journey:

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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