The explosion of big data has resulted in a proliferation of business problems caused by flawed, mismanaged and misunderstood data. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to implement a data governance program to ensure your organization has a firm understanding of its data from a business context, can optimize data quality and quantify its value. However, data governance is often, and erroneously, branded “just” an IT concern. Data governance should be a collaborative undertaking, bridging the business to IT divide, so that data assets are properly managed, utilized, and leveraged across a business enterprise.
The ultimate objective of data governance is to generate the greatest possible return on data, but data is only as valuable as the business processes, decisions, and interactions it enables and improves. Data governance, therefore, should be viewed as a foundational element of an organization’s overarching competitive strategy, one that extracts business value from data assets beyond risk mitigation and compliance. And to execute that strategy, data governance cannot fall solely on IT or dedicated data stewardship resources—it requires an enterprise-wide initiative with the shared accountability, ownership, and expertise of both business and IT to deliver maximum ROI.
Data governance is fundamentally about increasing understanding of data. Business users shouldn’t try to translate technical jargon into business context when it comes to data—too often this results in poor selection of data assets for analysis or low quality data usage, which only builds mistrust and discourages utilization. When an organization also fails to define data owners to field questions and provide clarification, this only exacerbates perceptions of data unreliability and further hinders business use.
This is why organizations need a business-focused, centralized data governance strategy that enforces company-wide focus on understanding data across the enterprise. That, combined with availability of proper tools, enables individuals across that enterprise to easily understand the data landscape, terminology, the data owner, etc. This framework, plus technology, will increase business users’ understanding while eliminating the ambiguities that can limit success as they perform critical business functions.
Beyond core support to enable understanding and utilization across business units, data governance should enable IT and business alike to easily define, track, and manage all aspects of organizational data assets through straightforward visualizations and easily navigable workflows, encouraging enterprise-wide collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and user empowerment. Through the synergy of people, processes, and technology, a comprehensive data governance program can ensure that organizations derive maximum business value from their data.
A business-oriented data governance solution enables trust and confidence in data assets. Trustworthy data is not just important for risk mitigation and compliance, but trusted data means that users will increasingly use data to inform business decisions and improve processes, and those analytical insights they extract can generate reliable, valuable business intelligence and better outcomes. For example, organizations can leverage their data to recognize customers’ behavior patterns, which can be used to identify patterns that indicate upsell or cross-sell opportunities, or help detect when a customer is ready to churn so appropriate action may be taken. Preventing churn and knowing when to upsell can only positively impact a business’s bottom line.
Organizations can also leverage their data to continuously improve customer experience and differentiate themselves from the competition. An example from the banking industry illustrates how to turn insights to action to advantage. Bank customers increasingly want access to their banking information from anywhere and from any device, with the ability to make deposits, transfer money, and even apply for lines of credit without having to make the trip to their local branch. With trusted data, banks can deliver this complete omni-channel experience and ensure that any financial transaction by a customer, whether online or in person, it is immediately updated in real time for mobile viewing.
Today, big data can either be a substantial asset or a costly liability. Those organizations that build a foundation of data governance focused on business, and understand it is not just an IT concern but from an enterprise-wide collaborative undertaking, are well-positioned to reap the greatest rewards from those data assets.
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