Keys to Data Governance

Whether in the medical sector or the insurance industry, improved quality of data has a profound impact on the ability of an organization to make intelligent decisions about the direction of their business. In fact, all modern businesses are challenged with how to manage data.  However, recognizing the need for Data Governance and enforcing a Data Governance Policy are two very different things.  To me, it’s the equivalent of acknowledging the positive results of exercise, but the work to get those results seems daunting.

According to the Data Governance Institute, while most programs will vary slightly, there are three common areas to help get an effective data governance practice off the ground:

  1. Consistency – This refers to how you look at data in order to make it understood and actionable. Conflicting sources or variations in meaning will result in useless data.  This is best controlled through the creation and alignment of “rules” or guidelines to follow when collecting and interpreting data.  Consider this the “Apples to Apples” approach that helps a data governance organization “decide how to decide.”
  1. Accountability – A specific chain of command needs to be put in place to take responsibility to enforce not only the adoption of Data Governance, but also to resolve any issues that come up during the data collection process. Programs are most effective when they fall outside of a Development organization.  This provides a sort of “checks and balances” to ensure that data related issues get the proper attention.
  1. Cultural adoption – This is probably the most critical piece to an effective Data Governance practice. If business groups refuse to be an active participant and get involved in establishing the rules and guidelines for a governance program, it will never have the impact that companies are looking for.  This is where having a data or information steward, or key business stake holder, is key.  According to Gartner, having this role clearly defined makes a crucial difference in ensuring that the data collected is useful and actionable.

One thing is clear about Data Governance – it is an ongoing, evolutionary process.  It is predicted in the next five years that “information will be used to reinvent, digitalize or eliminate 80% of business processes and products from a decade earlier” (Forbes).  By making a Data Governance practice a permanent fixture in an organization that is backed by key stakeholders, it will allow companies increased visibility and agility to adapt their businesses to trends in the market.  Also, making information governance a core function of an organization will provide in more robust data that will result in a higher level of confidence for decision makers.