Data governance is both a business and an IT issue, but companies are still grappling with its meaning.
Data governance is a discipline of data management. It ensures that the data managed is available, usable, consistent, trusted, and secure by an organization. In most businesses, IT is the primary steward of data. It is responsible for data management. But do companies understand the full meaning of data governance? The answer is no.
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As far as we know, the term ‘data management’, of which data governance is a part, was first coined in the 1960s. This was after the hectic decade of the 1950s, when computers started taking over the company’s processing tasks and data started piling up. 70 years later, companies are still struggling with the enforcement and implementation of data management.
How to best use data management
Ensure data availability
Whether an organization’s data resides on an online server, the cloud, or a remote storage site, that data must be available. For example, if your organization is in a legal search for a lawsuit and there is archived data on a tape in external storage, it is assumed that the tape is still readable and the data is retrievable. IT is responsible for this.
Keep the data useful
All data under management must be usable in business processes and applications. Data that is no longer used and that does not need to be archived should be discarded. This is generally achieved with a set of data retention guidelines that IT and business users agree and implement annually.
Maintain data consistency
Regardless of which system or business process uses data, each data element must be uniform and consistent across all applications. A customer named John Campbell should be John Campbell in any system. To achieve data consistency, IT must clean, prepare, and edit data so that all instances of John Campbell (such as Johnny Campbell or John K. Campbell) are consistently corrected to John Campbell.
Clean up the data
When users and systems use data that has been properly cleaned and prepared, they believe in the data.
Strengthen data security
IT ensures that all data under management is accessible, but there are limits. These limits come in the form of different levels of data permissions that are assigned to users based on the data they need access to in order to do their job. Security measures and monitoring must be implemented to ensure that individuals outside the enterprise cannot access Company data without express consent.
What data governance is not
Data governance began as a political term that described the governance of data flows across national borders. While this is still a concern for organizations, the current business understanding of data governance has more to do with how companies manage their internal data.
Data governance is not data architecture or data management
A data architect is responsible for designing an overall framework of hardware, software, data, and business processes that support enterprise-wide operations, but they are not specifically charged with data governance. Data management is an umbrella term that refers to all aspects of data management. Data governance is just one aspect of that.
Data management is not only the responsibility of IT
Too often, the task of data management is entrusted to IT when it should be a board-level concern that could include privacy and security of customer information, security of data and intellectual property, regulatory compliance, corporate reputation and even the ability of operate the company.
By breaking down data governance into its individual components, companies can better understand what data governance is, what it expects to achieve, and why the entire company needs to be involved.