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A well-crafted data governance strategy can have numerous benefits for organisations, from minimising risks, enabling value creation, to the development of coherent policies and processes. Specifically, it can help an organisation to foster trust in their data, meet compliance obligations and cultivate a data driven culture – essentially creating an environment where data can be analysed and activated to either reduce costs or identity insights that can drive growth.

In our experience, we have found that overlooking or underplaying the vital importance of data discovery and classification has been the most common barrier to implementing an effective data governance strategy.

Although there are a variety of reasons as to why this may be the case, one common theme regularly quoted is the reliance on technology to achieve this. The common misconception is that these tools can simply be given access to a variety of data sources to analyse and identify governance violations instantaneously. Sadly, this is impossible to achieve without first understanding what you are looking for.

As a result, a successful data discovery and classification exercise is a key pillar to an effective data governance strategy. By understanding the data, it’s attributes, where it is located and who has access to it, organisations can effectively secure, govern and make data available to the right teams when they need it.

Enhancing Data Privacy and Security

Data is a critical enterprise asset that underpins operations, drives decision-making, makes personalised end-to-end service delivery possible, unlocks competitive advantage, and more. Unfortunately, all this data represents a rich prize for cyber criminals looking to steal, hijack, or hold data to ransom. In addition, staying compliant with GDPR, CCPA, NIST and other regulations means that as well as keeping data secure and available, organisations also have a legal responsibility to assure data privacy with regard to how data is collected, shared, and used.

As a consequence, security teams are doubling down on building the capabilities needed to prepare for and respond to cybersecurity incidents. Without these insights, some organisations will typically resort to a ‘belt and braces’ approach and apply security technologies, such as least privilege management, to every data set they own, regardless of categorisation. While zero trust represents a highly effective route to achieving better security and protection, it can quickly become an expensive option if implemented across the board rather than just being utilised for those data assets identified as high value or high risk.

By understanding what and identifying where sensitive personal or commercial information is stored, organisations can apply the appropriate level of data protection and security controls. Through a rigorous data discovery and classification exercise, organisations can significantly reduce the exposure risk should an unsecured data asset experience a security or privacy breach – efficiently using their resources and identifying potentially serious governance blind spots.

Improving the Data Catalogue  and Business Glossary

Once organisations know what they have, where it is and have appropriately classified it, firms will be empowered to build a data catalogue that is coordinated and uniform – making data transparent and easily accessible. In addition to the increased visibility of data assets across multiple sources, data catalogues also provide clarity into data definitions, synonyms, business attributes and owners – enabling easy collaboration between different departments.

When deployed in conjunction with a business glossary, organisations can further unify their data under a common language that is clear and consistent – crucially removing ambiguity in business terminology. With the ability to classify data elements logically in a business context, organisations are enabled to set policies and manage access controls at a logical level. By applying this consistently across their disparate data stores, organisations can essentially deliver; improved data quality, effective compliance, greater decision making, and better business efficiency and performance.

The Core Pillars

When data governance is effectively planned and delivered, it can offer huge potential for improving business performance and reducing costs. However, the approach taken to data discovery and classification can make or break an organisations data governance initiative.

Ultimately, until an organisation truly understands their data, they cannot deliver real value that empowers an organisation to make major improvements across a wide range of critical operational and performance issues. In short, if you don’t know what or where your data assets are, then it will be impossible to efficiently use, manage, or protect them.


Looking to maximise the benefits of a robust data governance strategy? Our expert team can support you through the critical steps of data discovery and classification:

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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