Data Governance 101

Gunnar Steinn Magnusson1 Dec 22 • 7 min read

Blog > Manage

Data governance is the foundation of your organization’s overall data management strategy. It’s there to help ensure that you can access the right data at the right time while also adhering to regulatory compliance and protecting privacy.

So, that’s where data governance fits in with the overall data management strategy, but what about data quality? Well, you can’t have one without the other but they are standalone. Here’s a great water analogy from Experian that explains the difference between data quality and data governance in simple terms (if you want to learn more about data quality, here):

Data quality refers to the water being clean and helps to ensure that nothing contaminates it, whereas data governance establishes that the right people with the right tools are accountable for the right part of the water system itself.

We’re going to take a look at data governance, what it means, how to achieve it, and the benefits of getting right.


What is data governance?

It’s the process of ensuring that data is available and used effectively and efficiently, and consists of policies, processes, roles and responsibilities, and tools to make this a reality. A business’s data governance program provides guidelines for the management of its business-critical data assets (such as customer, employee, or vendor information).

Data governance also helps ensure that all stakeholders – all the way from senior leadership to frontline employees – understand their roles in protecting sensitive information. Organizational policies could require sensitive data to be encrypted at the end of each day, or also in instances when an employee permanently leaves the company. Failure to comply with this policy could therefore result in serious disciplinary consequences for the employee.

Data governance framework

A data governance framework can best be defined as a set of guidelines and procedures that define how data should be managed. It includes all necessary roles and responsibilities, processes, and tools for data management.

Having a data governance framework in place helps to ensure that data is managed effectively and efficiently. It can also help to improve data quality by making sure that data is accurate, consistent, and complete. Ultimately, a data governance framework can help to reduce compliance risks by ensuring that data is handled in a way that meets regulatory requirements. As organizations increasingly rely on data to make decisions, having a data governance framework in place is essential for ensuring that data is managed in a way that supports overall business and departmental objectives.

It’s important to note that data governance frameworks are not only limited to IT departments – they must also include legal, marketing, and HR teams as they all play an important role in determining how employees use their respective sets of information within an organization.

When designing your framework, think about how it will affect both internal and external parties – including vendors who may need access.

A data governance strategy

To support an effective data governance framework, you need a solid strategy.

When developing a data governance strategy, it’s important to set goals first (and then use these in your analysis). It can be helpful to create an overall goal that encompasses all aspects of your business, but also make sure this objective aligns with specific departmental goals or objectives. This way everyone has something to look forward to – and something they can work towards achieving together.

As much as we might like for our colleagues or superiors to not worry about what our individual goals are (or have been), this isn't realistic. Why? Well, because you’re all working together toward one common goal for the organization: achieving better outcomes through better use of data across all departments (not just yours).

So, what steps should be taken to facilitate a successful data governance strategy?

  • 1

    Identify, understand and locate the original data source: this means making sure that all your data is accurate, complete, up-to-date, and structured and formatted in the right way, across all internal systems

  • 2
    Choose a storage option: look at where you want data to be stored, this can be on-site or cloud-based, for example, but it should act as a central repository for all data sets
  • 3
    Prepare and process data: this involves taking data in its raw format and making it usable to users
  • 4
    Provision data: data should be shareable across systems and departments, to better inform decision-making for the wider business
  • 5
    Implement governance: this is the set of regulations that are put in place to ensure all data is managed securely and in the right way
  • 6
    Continue to Analyze: a data governance strategy doesn’t simply stop at the governance stage, business objectives, data governance strategies, and the framework will need to be updated on a regular basis to stay in line with changing markets and customer demands

Who should be involved?

This is not a job for just one person – data governance is a team effort that involves multiple stakeholders from all departments and levels of the organization…

  • The board of directors and/or executive team: these are the people who set the vision for your company and determine its goals, so it's important for them to understand which data is most critical for accomplishing those goals
  • Data management team: a separate team should be responsible for managing your data life cycle, including mapping, cleansing and normalizing it, ensuring it stays up-to-date, making sure you have the right tools in place to analyze the data (such as dashboards) and setting policies around access rights or how much time can elapse before old information gets deleted or archived. This group may also be responsible for building strong internal partnerships with other departments like analytics or marketing so they can help provide insights on what types of questions need answering through analytics methods like predictive modeling or segmentation analysis based on certain characteristics (such as gender or geography etc.). This group may also include members outside of IT such as marketers who specialize in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software solutions where they work directly with customers over email marketing campaigns – but don't worry, that doesn't mean everyone needs an advanced degree in computer science!

What are the benefits of implementing a data governance framework?

There are several benefits that businesses can expect to experience when they adopt a data governance framework.

A higher quality of data

Helps ensure that your organization has the right information and processes in place to capture high-quality data at every step in the process. It also ensures that new sources of data are being thoroughly vetted before they're used to make important business decisions.

Reduced risk

When your company is able to manage its data effectively, it's able to avoid any costly errors down the line – this also instills greater business confidence to start new initiatives or projects that rely on collected information for support.

Increased agility

The ability for people within an organization (or across multiple organizations) to easily access and share relevant information means faster decision-making based on real-time insights from trusted sources. This means less time lost when there's a sudden shift in direction due to changing market conditions or regulatory changes.

How to get started

Now we know that essentially, data governance is a set of policies, processes, and procedures that define how data is created, used, shared, stored, and destroyed, and a framework enables the organization to manage data successfully – how do you get started?

First, businesses need to remember these three things; it’s an exercise, a framework, and a strategy that combine to create true data governance: it’s about people, processes, and technology that work together to encourage data success: and it’s about data quality and compliance that in turn, facilitate better and quicker decision-making.

Data governance is a complex topic with many moving parts, but don’t let that scare you away from getting started! Contact a data governance expert or if you are interested in demo of Exmon - book a demo - to learn how a data governance solution can put your business back on track to regulatory compliance and high quality data.

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Gunnar Steinn MagnussonChief Executive Officer, exMon Software ehf.

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