Data Governance in the Age of Big Data

Get the Lowdown on the When, Why and How of Data Governance

Jodi JohnsonMarch 13, 2018

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The Emerging Importance of Data Governance

The term “data governance” has been around for decades, but only in the last several years have we refined our understanding of what it means in the age of big data. Both the role of, and responsibility for, data governance has undergone rapid recent evolution, as organizations face the normalization of big data and the increasingly rugged terrain of the global regulatory landscape. Organizations are quickly learning how to navigate unfamiliar territory as they contend with growing complexities in data management and compliance, but they’re also realizing that they need a sustainable, scalable, and enterprise-wide strategy to not only overcome immediate obstacles, but also to advance their long-term objectives. And as they evaluate solutions, more and more organizations are realizing that the foundation of their data management strategy must be grounded in data governance.

The trending recognition of data governance as a critical data management mechanism is evident from the results of a 2017 CIO WaterCooler survey of senior IT leadership, with 80% of respondents reporting that they have only begun implementing data governance within the past two years. But exactly how these leaders define data governance, and the initiatives they have undertaken, may vary widely. It can cover a broad scope of initiatives, and while business glossaries and data dictionaries are critical elements, a data governance program must be both comprehensive and strategic to yield maximum value. As you consider your organization’s data governance approach, you need to consider the following questions:

  • How do we define data governance?
  • When does my organization need to implement data governance?
  • What do we seek to accomplish through data governance?
  • Why is data governance importance to my business?

The fact is, data governance is often misunderstood, and misunderstanding often leads to underestimation. Executives hesitate to allocate scarce budget dollars to data governance initiatives without quantifiable value. But an enterprise-wide approach to governance serves many purposes, not least among them the need to increase the value of organizational data assets—which can result not only in short-term operational impact, but long-term returns.

From Advantage to Imperative

The quote, “Data is the new oil” has been variously attributed to a number of thought leaders in recent years, but regardless of origination, the underlying message is true. As an asset, data will only grow more valuable over time, and properly leveraging that data has gone from business advantage to operational imperative.

Data is of no value if it isn’t understood and isn’t refined. Centralized data governance accomplishes both of those, promoting accountability and collaboration to build organizations that can rely on quality data assets, as well as data stewards and owners who support business users to produce valuable business insights and smarter operational decisions. Organizations simply need to take the first step.

If you’re interested in learning more about the basics of data governance, the need for centralized data and how to get started, check out this new white paper. It defines data governance, which is often the first barrier to success, and then walks you through the need for centralized data governance, how it has to span both IT and business, the role of metadata management, data quality, and compliance, and what ROI looks like.

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