At the most recent Salesforce Connections conference in Chicago, business and IT professionals that work with one of the top rated sales management platforms in the world addressed how some of their data intensive organizations approach data management. The topic of data governance came up repeatedly throughout the conference.
One of the most well-attended keynote sessions dealt with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that recently took effect for companies that service and market to European residents and citizens. Regulatory compliance is one of the most common catalysts for initiating a corporate governance program across most industries. Sarbanes-Oxley, Banking Committee on Banking Supervision’s standard 239 (BCBS239) and Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) are just a few others that require governance.
While compliance and governance are frequently mentioned in the same breath, typically putting metrics around the operational execution of compliance is not compelling enough to drive implementation of enterprise data governance. Return on investment (ROI) is sometimes difficult to measure unless there have been violations that resulted in penalties, providing ample fodder to build a strong business case for corporate governance initiatives. With GDPR fines that can go as high as €20 million or 4 percent of annual global revenues, the potential financial and reputational risks certainly caught the attention of this audience. The prevailing sentiment at this highly customer-centric conference was that big fines are imminent, and education on how to prove they are meeting compliance standards is a high priority. During the keynote session by Salesforce Chief Product Officer Bret Taylor, he expressed expectations that GDPR will continue to evolve, and it is just a matter of time before similar compliance laws are passed in the United States and around the world (California just passed the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018).
What seemed to be an even larger motivating factor for governance was data quality. While sharing at a round table session on data management, Salesforce business owners and their IT support teams agreed that the complexity and explosion of data formats, sources and environments was causing problems in a number of ways. Business owners found the lack of visibility and delayed availability of data quality scores negatively impacted their ability to make decisions and execute on marketing and sales programs in real time and have confidence that their results were accurate. IT professionals struggled with being able to quickly and cost-effectively interrogate complex transactional data to produce the quality profiles needed for a comprehensive governance program. In addition, IT was frequently held responsible to disposition transactional data to enrich data sets and campaigns – and both the technical and business teams found change management visibility and documentation a challenge. During the cross-functional discussion, there was widespread agreement that identifying who the data owners and data stewards that were empowered to do this was often unclear.
Governance was identified as a solution to answer questions that would give them greater visibility into where the data came from, how fresh it was, and how it has been transformed as it moved throughout their systems. This seemed particularly important as an increasing number of third party data sets were being leveraged. Policies on usage, including GDPR, are difficult, but necessary to document and track. The concept of second party data (access to the website audience data of another retailer, brand, publisher, or marketer for marketing purposes for both parties’ mutual benefit) was also brought into the conversation as another source that required better data quality oversight.
On a final note, data quality is growing increasingly important as more advanced analytical environments are becoming commonplace in data- centric organizations as a means to innovatively leverage their data. At Salesforce alone, advanced analytic solutions exist in their expanding platform to create more targeted marketing campaigns, personalize customer experiences and expedite customer response requests. Governance initiatives are becoming standard requirements for data lakes, master data management and similar big data projects to proactively promote adoption and ensure return on these investments.
In summary, even though there were no sessions officially titled ‘data governance,’ it was clear that oversight of data—including quality, ownership, lineage and compliance policies—were topics that permeated the conference. What can be concluded is that as new data formats, sources and environments expand, data governance will become a common denominator in successful data management strategies.
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