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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Four Strategies to Drive Real Business Value through Data Governance

Learn how to leverage your company's data to drive new revenues, reimagine business processes, improve the customer experience, and comply with new and growing regulatory requirements.

In a world inundated with information, businesses are on the hunt for new strategies to better capitalize on their growing repositories of unorganized data. That's because there's a goldmine of business insight and competitive advantage just waiting to be revealed there. However, too many organizations fail to leverage the power of their data because -- assuming they can find and understand it -- they don't trust it implicitly.

Data governance -- the management of the availability, usability, integrity, and security of data -- has become an increasingly critical business process as enterprises try to improve risk management and remain competitive.

The problem is, what have been called "data governance methods" have, to some extent, been separate disciplines or one-off fixes without lasting impact. Organizations may have some basic data management in place (storing, cleaning, consolidating, and reporting data) but if you look at the control and enablement processes around the data, they have usually been duct-taped together through spreadsheets, email, and meetings. This situation has been exacerbated by the firefighting, internal stresses, and lack of results that typically occur as a result of these ad hoc business processes.

Today, true data governance -- an approach that focuses on the business case and relies on the data governance team to ensure accountability and ownership -- is finally being embraced. This more sophisticated and systematic approach offers a collaborative framework for strictly managing and defining policies, business rules, and assets to provide business users across the enterprise with high-quality data that is easily and consistently accessible. Taking these crucial steps to data governance and stewardship is when the true value of data can be realized.

Here are four key strategies to get you started on the road to unearthing valuable and trusted data for business advantage:

Strategy #1: Identify the business case

It's essential for your organization to establish the business case, including risk, value, and cost, to see data governance for what it truly is: a business asset.

Whether you're trying to meet a looming regulatory deadline or improve an issue-management procedure (e.g., around data sharing), these more-urgent business problems can often be triggers for establishing basic governance processes and operating procedures. Having focused its energy and resources into data stewardship as a critical business asset and seen the successes it might achieve, your organization then has the foundation for doing so much more.

You can measure and drive compliance to process outcomes, improve data usage, align reference and master data, make accountability and responsibility decisions, and enjoy quality analytics and metrics. By taking a systematic approach to assigning, managing, and rewriting data, you're adding meaning, consistency, and trust to the data for greater business results.

Strategy #2: Establish an operating model for success

Once your business processes and principles in need of governance are established, a collaborative (and most essentially, executable) framework is needed for determining enterprisewide policies, business rules, and assets for your data governance teams and business users to follow. This goes well beyond just creating a paper-based operating model with bullet-point responsibilities where your organization is left on its own to execute and put data governance practices into play.

Adopting an overall policy helps determine data inventory, data ownership, critical data elements, data quality, information security, data lineage, and data retention. This enables more control over previously hidden or siloed enterprise data and empowers everyone in the organization to go beyond just producing and consuming data to trusting and using the data to optimize value. Establishing an executable and sustainable operating model is where data governance technology platforms become not only helpful, but essential.

Strategy #3: Appoint a data governance team to define and ensure best practices

Effective data governance really does take a village, but it's likely that members of your organization are already doing much of the necessary work -- they're just doing it in an ad hoc and uncoordinated (or manual) manner.

Once your data governance framework and operational model is in place, the next step to capitalize on the potential for business advantage comes down to people. Your organization needs a strong data governance council that includes the chief data officer, stewardship committee, and working groups.

The task of this core team or council is to identify the business stakeholders who are already tackling data governance challenges and put formal structure around the way that work is being done (data governance software will handle most of the heavy lifting) so these jobs become easier and more effective.

Strategy #4: Implement a "rolling" governance road map with adaptive and flexible technology

Finally, your organization needs to choose a flexible data governance platform that smoothly integrates the landscape of surrounding tools and techniques. The technology platform can help support a sort of "rolling wave" data governance road map that goes all the way from the compelling event, or business case, that triggered governance up to business as usual. The road map should incorporate regular (e.g., every three months), iterative roll-out cycles (specific to the different use cases, stakeholder teams, lines of business, etc.) and show tangible value at each turn.

Having the right model and supporting platform in place -- one that is scalable and adaptable to quickly meet the evolving needs of a business -- will help reduce operational costs, improve customer retention, and ensure a laser focus on data quality. It also eliminates the need to implement large, costly, and far-reaching hardware and software application and architecture solutions.


Once data governance is in place, you can leverage your accessible, trustworthy data to drive new revenues, reimagine business processes, improve the customer experience, and comply with new and growing regulatory requirements. By following these four strategies, you'll be well on your way to realizing the true value of your data across your organization.

About the Author

Stan Christiaens is co-founder and chief technology officer of data governance specialist Collibra.

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