Data Governance is all about policies and controls, right?

The problem with approaching data governance from that perspective is that it turns the data governance team into the data cops. And just as the real police sometimes have an antagonistic relationship with the communities they patrol, so do the data cops.

There’s another approach you can take to data governance that changes the perception that the goal is to limit users. Rather than viewing data governance as a function that restricts business, address it as a role that protects and empowers users by ensuring that valuable data is available to support business functions.

How does data governance do that?

Data governance makes sure data is available across the organization

An effective data governance policy breaks down data silos. While data may be captured and stored by a specific department, the existence of that data needs to be known to the whole business. One department may remain the owner of the data, responsible for its collection, but there’s a process for other organizations to access that data if they need it.

Data governance makes sure the data is consistent

By requiring metadata, data dictionaries, and data quality, the meaning of every data set is well defined. Analyses using different data sets give consistent results, or, when results differ, the discrepancy can be readily explained due to known differences in the data set. By working with correct, consistent data and having a deeper understanding of the data, business decisions are improved.

Data governance makes sure the business doesn’t draw the attention of the real cops.

Every business is obligated to follow laws and regulations; failure to do so can be extremely costly. Data governance procedures ensure that the business handles and retains data as the law requires, protecting the business from financial penalties.

Getting data governance to work to focus on supporting data users instead of restricting them requires a change in mindset as well as making use of software that helps find data and identify how it’s being used. Data profiling and data discovery tools like Veritas Data Insight can help the data governance team with that process. Metadata and business vocabularies need to be created so everybody understands the meaning of the data. Both IT staff and business analysts will need to be involved to create those documents. Data flows should also be documented, both to identify opportunities to eliminate redundant data and to be used in the future to make sure system changes doesn’t change the meaning of any downstream data.

It’s important that those documents are widely circulated and always available. And they need to be used, by the data governance team, the business team, and the technology team. It’s only when everyone working for the business has a common understanding of the data and what it means that the business can truly leverage its data to drive business decision-making.

How are you using data governance to empower your business users rather than restrict them? Let us know in the comments, or contact us to talk about how you can improve your approach to data governance.

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