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What is data governance?

Data governance is a principled approach to managing data during its life cycle, from acquisition to use to disposal. 

Every organization needs data governance. As businesses throughout all industries proceed on their digital-transformation journeys, data has quickly become the most valuable asset they possess.

Senior managers need accurate and timely data to make strategic business decisions. Marketing and sales professionals need trustworthy data to understand what customers want. Procurement and supply-chain-management personnel need accurate data to keep inventories stocked and to minimize manufacturing costs. Compliance officers need to prove that data is being handled according to both internal and external mandates. And so on.

Data governance defined

Data governance is everything you do to ensure data is secure, private, accurate, available, and usable. It includes the actions people must take, the processes they must follow, and the technology that supports them throughout the data life cycle.

Data governance means setting internal standards—data policies—that apply to how data is gathered, stored, processed, and disposed of. It governs who can access what kinds of data and what kinds of data are under governance. Data governance also involves complying with external standards set by industry associations, government agencies, and other stakeholders. 

What are the benefits of data governance?

Make better, more timely decisions

Users throughout your organization get the data they need to reach and service customers, design and improve products and services, and seize opportunities for new revenues.

Improve cost controls

Data helps you manage resources more effectively. Because you can eliminate data duplication caused by information silos, you don’t overbuy—and have to maintain—expensive hardware.

Enhance regulatory compliance

An increasingly complex regulatory climate has made it even more important for organizations to establish robust data governance practices. You avoid risks associated with noncompliance while proactively anticipating new regulations.

Earn greater trust from customers and suppliers

By being in auditable compliance with both internal and external data policies, you gain the trust of customers and partners that you will protect their sensitive information, so they feel positive about doing business with you.

Manage risk more easily

With strong governance, you can allay concerns about exposure of sensitive data to individuals or systems who lack proper authorization, security breaches from malicious outsiders, or even insiders accessing data they don’t have the right to see. 

Allow more personnel access to more data

Strong data governance allows more personnel access to more data, with the confidence that these personnel get access to the right data and that this democratization of data does not negatively impact the organization.

Data governance in the cloud

As cloud adoption accelerates, questions inevitably arise about how it impacts data governance. Enterprises have concerns that:

  • Their data will be secure: Businesses may be concerned about storing data in the public cloud. They are still responsible for controlling data governance on the data for their on-premises systems, but need to know that their cloud provider will protect against its exposure or theft when it is stored in the cloud.  
  • The cloud vendor will comply with regulations: Enterprise compliance officers and data stewards responsible for adhering to regulations and standards need to feel confident that their cloud vendor will also adhere to GDPR, CCPA, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and other regulations and need to provide them with tools to help vendors comply when their data is in the cloud.
  • They will have visibility and control: Public cloud providers know that their ability to help with data governance can inspire customer trust and massively enhance the customer experience. As a result, leading cloud vendors offer tools for data assessment, metadata cataloging, access control management, data quality, and information security as core competencies to companies that use their platforms.

What is data governance used for?

Data governance is necessary to assure that data is safe, secure, private, usable, and in compliance with both internal and external data policies. Data governance allows setting and enforcing controls that allow greater access to data, gaining the security and privacy from the controls on data. Here are some common use cases:

Data stewardship

Data governance often means giving accountability and responsibility for both the data itself and the processes that ensure its proper use to “data stewards.”

Data quality

Data governance is also used to ensure data quality, which refers to any activities or techniques designed to make sure  data is suitable to be used. Data quality is generally judged on six dimensions: accuracy, completeness, consistency, timeliness, validity, and uniqueness.

Data management

This is a broad concept encompassing all aspects of managing data as an enterprise asset, from collection and storage to usage and oversight, making sure it’s being leveraged securely, efficiently, and cost-effectively before it’s disposed of.