What Do We Really Mean by Data Governance?

Author: IƱaki Aguirregaviria Business Analytics & Big Data Manager @Quistor

In the previous article we talked about the importance of data in today's organisations. In that article, we talked about how the time of gurus and intuition is now a distant past, as organisations are now valuing the power of data, especially in large quantities, as the driving force behind corporate decisions at all levels of the organisation.

There is no doubt that data, and more specifically information, is a very valuable possession in any corporation, and even at a personal level we are beginning to see that our information is worth money, but as we have already mentioned, we do not treat this information and when we do, rather than treat it, we torture it. We twist it, we falsify it, we throw it away, in short, we mistreat it.

One of the objectives of data governance is to treat it as it deserves, for the intrinsic value it has, although it is often not easy to see the value.

In the same way, we also explain the importance of managing data as an organisational asset. This is the new engine of a new line of work that in the coming years all large corporations around the world will devote more resources to. Data is the greatest asset of our companies, and as such, it must be managed or, as I like to say, meta-managed. Manage it through metadata, which is what makes data valuable by converting it into information.

What is really data governance?

We could find countless different definitions on the internet because it is difficult to define the exact scope of data management. We could manage its origins, where the data is created, the significance of the data, its transformations, and connections, the exploitation, where it is stored and why, its custody, its quality, its security, etc.

It is for this reason that I would first like to introduce you to an international organisation such as DAMA, which has been defining the scope of extensive data management within a corporation for 30 years. DAMA is an international organisation whose purpose is to promote the understanding, development, and practice of data and information management as a key business asset to support decision making.

DAMA in its guide to data governance, DMBOK (Data Management Body of Knowledge), defines data governance as: "Data Governance is defined as the exercise of Authority and Control over the management of data".

It is a very simple definition, but it involves a wide range of activities and areas of application and highlights two clear priorities: Authority and Control, and what these imply.

The functions of data governance are aimed at guiding all data management functions and its main purpose is to ensure that this is done correctly based on a strategy, policies, and best practices previously defined by each organisation according to its particular characteristics. Data governance focuses on how decisions are made about data and how people and processes in the organisation should behave with regard to it.

There are two basic concepts in data governance

The first and basic one, which is often confused, is that data governance is separate from IT governance. While IT governance makes decisions about hardware, software, or software architecture, data governance focuses exclusively on data and information management, managing data as a real asset of the organisation.

Second, and no less important, is the fact that data governance is not something that is done once and for all. Instead, it needs to be a programme that is continually evolving, focused on ensuring that an organisation can gain real value from data and reduce the risks associated with data. It should therefore be approached as a strategic business concern.

When should we start?

The main reasons for an organisation to start a data governance practice are usually two:

  • Compliance with legal regulations: this is especially true in highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, which require very strict data management processes.
  • New analytics and big data trends: this has forced organisations to have a more exhaustive control of their data.

Regardless, it is never too late or too early to start a data governance practice if we think about the real value of such information. Although many voices claim that it is very complicated or cumbersome to understand what data governance is, the concept of governance or management is really simple, instead of thinking about inventing something, it is possible to implement governance policies similar to those already in use in the organisation, such as audits or methodologies. Something similar to what all companies do to manage their financial assets.

Before you go

Feel free to ask us any question, ask for more information or simply say hello in this contact form.

Get in touch