All organizations need to plan how they use data so that it’s handled consistently throughout the business, to support business outcomes.
This means that organizations who successfully do this consider the who – what – how – when – where and why of data to not only ensure security and compliance, but to extract value from all the information collected and stored across the business – improving business performance.
It’s all about how you handle the data collected within your business.
This is data governance, and most organizations are doing some sort of this without even knowing it.
According to the 2019 State of Data Management, data governance is one of the top 5 strategic initiatives for global organizations in 2019. Since technology trends such as Machine Learning and AI rely on data quality, and with the push of digital transformation initiatives across the globe, this trend is likely not going to change any time soon.
Because of this, we wanted to raise the awareness of data governance to help those who care about data quality learn more about how the role of data governance impacts today’s business environments, stakeholders and company objectives.
We set out to produce the most comprehensive, free resources available on the web about data governance; this article is exactly that.
Go ahead. Google “Data Governance.” Within five seconds you’ll drown in definitions. Pick your favorite. We’ll wait.
At Profisee, we’re big fans of keeping things simple, so we’ll give you one sentence:
Data governance is a set of principles and practices that ensure high quality through the complete lifecycle of your data.
According to the Data Governance Institute (DGI), it is a practical and actionable framework to help a variety of data stakeholders across any organization identify and meet their information needs.
The DGI maintains that businesses don’t just need systems for managing data. They need a whole system of rules, with processes and procedures to make sure those rules are followed, consistently, every working day. That is a tall order for any system of governance. Tools like the Profisee Platform make the work much easier.
That’s good enough to get us started.
Data is becoming the core corporate asset that will determine the success of your business. Digital transformation is on the agenda everywhere. You can only exploit your data assets and do a successful digital transformation if you are able to govern your data. This means that it is an imperative to deploy a data governance framework that fits your organization and your future business objectives and business models. That framework must control the data standards needed for this journey and delegate the required roles and responsibilities within your organization and in relation to the business ecosystem where your company operates.
A well-managed data governance framework will underpin the business transformation toward operating on a digital platform at many levels within an organization:
If you’ve managed to get this far, the benefits are probably obvious. Data governance means better, leaner, cleaner data, which means better analytics, which means better business decisions, which means better business results. Better market positioning. Mindshare in your space. Reputation. Better profit margin (everybody likes this one).
It’s the GIGO principal. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Or as our friend Scott Taylor puts it, the GIGE principal.
Remember: Garbage In, Garbage Everywhere.
Of course definitions are important. But action is more important. Now we know what it is. What do we want to do with it?
Here are a few possibilities:
These are just a handful of things you can do with great data governance. Bottom line is, we either want to do these things to grow, or we have to do them to meet regulatory requirements. Regardless of reason, the end result of not doing these things is the same. If we have bad data, we make bad decisions that we don’t realize are bad decisions until later.
“With bad data, we keeping making bad decisions.
We just don’t realize they’re bad decisions until later.”
– Scott Taylor, MetaMeta Consulting
That’s Scott Taylor, also known as the Data Whisperer. He’s been a thought leader in the MDM world for about twenty years, so when he crashed our office party in February, we figured there was a pretty good chance he knew what he was talking about. You’ll hear more from him later.
So, what does data governance look like in the wild? One of the most challenging spaces to put these practices to work is in open source projects like Open Street Map. Created by British entrepreneur Steve Coast in 2004, it was a response to the proliferation of siloed, proprietary international geographical data sources—dozens of mapping software products that didn’t talk to each other.
OSM uses data from volunteer contributors, much like Wikipedia, and is available to anyone with an Internet connection. Since 2008, OSM has grown from 50,000 registered users and contributors to over 2 million, with all of the map data submitted and collated by those volunteers. OSM is currently used by Facebook, Foursquare, and MapQuest, to name only three of the largest among literally thousands of professional users.
In plainspeak: It is a miracle that this thing works at all. Some contributors are professional cartographers using high-tech GPS systems, and some are just weekend cyclists using their cellphones to triangulate and upload trip landmarks. But it does work, and it works well enough to be the trusted source of data for a number of Fortune 500 companies, some fast-track upstarts, and more mom-and-pop ventures than you can shake a stick at. A lot of folks use OpenStreetMap for their businesses.
We’re pretty optimistic when it comes to data purity. It comes with the territory. This is a miracle we understand. This model can only function if the data governance behind it works. And it is what Mr. Coast had in mind all along, building on a single revelatory concept.
The data is the product, not the map.
As you might imagine, a crowdsourced mapping system without a way to standardize contributor data could go wonky, as the Brits say, in a hurry. Establishing data standards early in the process and ensuring contributors adhere to them is key to the platform’s continued success.
Data governance will involve the whole organization in a greater or lesser degree, but let’s break down the most commonly involved stakeholders:
Data Owners: First, you will need to appoint data owners (or data sponsors if you like) in the business. This must be people that are able to make decisions and enforce these decisions throughout the organization. Data owners can be appointed at entity level (eg customer records, product records, employee records and so forth) and supplementary on attribute level (eg customer address, customer status, product name, product classification and so forth). Data owners are ultimately accountable for the state of the data as an asset.
Data Stewards: Next, you will need data stewards (or data champions if you like) who are the people making sure that the data policies and data standards are adhered to in daily business. These people will often be the subject matter experts for a data entity and/or a set of data attributes. Data stewards are either the ones responsible for taking care of the data as an asset or the ones consulted in how to do that.
Data Custodians: Furthermore, you may use data custodians (or data operators if you like) to make the business and technical onboarding, maintenance and end-of-life updates to your data assets.
Data Governance Committee: Typically, a data governance committee will be established as the main forum for approving data policies and data standards and handle escalated issues. Depending on the size and structure of your organization there may be sub fora for each data domain (eg customer, vendor, product, employee).
These roles highlighted above should optionally be supported by a Data Governance Office with a Data Governance Team. In a typical enterprise, here are some folks who might make up a Data Governance Team:
One of the most important aspects of assigning and fulfilling the roles is having a well-documented description of the roles, the expectations and how the roles interact. This will typically be outlined in a RACI matrix describing who is responsible, accountable, to be consulted and to be informed within a certain enforcement, process or for a certain artifact as a policy or standard.
A data governance framework is a set of data rules, organizational role delegations and processes aimed at bringing everyone on the organization on the same page.
There are many data governance frameworks out there. As an example, we will use the one from The Data Governance Institute. This framework has 10 components; let’s discuss in detail:
Figure 1. The DGI Data Governance Framework © The Data Governance Institute
Master data can be described by the way that it interacts with other data.
A mission and vision that states why data governance is essential within our organization. At best, this should be related to the business objectives of the enterprise. This should be endorsed by the top-management.
The short-term and long-term goals for the data governance program as well as the success criteria and their measurement. Often this should be addressing the main pain points that exist in various lines of the business. This must be aligned with the funding and other involved line management.
Data rules and definitions in the form of data policies, data standards, data definitions preferable as a business glossary and how business rules transform into data rules. This should cover the data assets describing the core business entities essential to meeting the business objectives. The data governance office/team will work with data owners and data stewards to set this up.
Engagement of data stakeholders in the roles of data owners, data stewards, data custodians and others who is accountable, responsible, must be consulted or should be informed.
The Governance Office / Team should be organized to support the cross functional data governance structures and activities. It collects metrics and success measures and reports on them to data stakeholders. It provides ongoing stakeholder care in the form of communication, access to information, record-keeping, and education/support
Last, but not least, at set of standardized, documented and repeatable processes must be deployed with the right balance of enabling technology. The orchestration of data governance processes will ultimately determine the success – or failure – or your data governance framework and the ability to rise in data governance maturity.
Measuring your organization up against a data governance maturity model can be a very useful element in making the roadmap and communicating the as-is and to-be part of the data governance initiative and the context for deploying a data governance framework.
One example of such a maturity model is the Enterprise Information Management maturity model from Gartner, the analyst firm:
Figure 2. © Gartner
Most organizations will before embarking on a data governance program find themselves in the lower phases of such a model.
Phase 0 – Unaware: This might be in the unaware phase, which often will mean that you may be more or less alone in your organization with your ideas about how data governance can enable better business outcomes. In that phase you might have a vision for what is required but need to focus on much humbler things as convincing the right people in the business and IT on smaller goals around awareness and small wins.
Phase 1 – Aware: In the aware phase where lack of ownership and sponsorship is recognized and the need for policies and standards is acknowledged there is room for launching a tailored data governance framework addressing obvious pain points within your organization.
Phases 2 and 3 – Reactive & Proactive: Going into the reactive and proactive phases means that a more comprehensive data governance framework can be established covering all aspects of data governance and the full organizational structure encompassing data ownership and data stewardship as well as a Data Governance Office / Team in alignment with the achieved and to be achieved business outcomes.
Phases 4 and 5 – Managed & Effective: By reaching the managed and effective phases your data governance framework will be an integrated part of doing business.
If your current data governance policies and procedures is your guidebook, the maturity model is your history book. It’s compiled from historical data based on a maturity assessment, which compares a company’s performance to established goals and benchmarks over a given period—a quarter, for example, or a year, or even five years. The model shows where you’ve been, which helps shape where you’re going.
While a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t really work for a maturity model, an “if-the-shoe-fits” approach works well for many companies. Search for existing models, find one that’s close, and adjust it to meet your company needs. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s easy to change the size of the shoe. It’s not so easy to change the size of your foot.
Data Governance is the strategic approach. MDM is the tactical execution. That’s it. We’re good. You can go home now.
Not convinced? Ok. Don’t take our word for it. As promised, we’re back with Scott Taylor of MetaMeta Consulting. He has forgotten more about master data than most of us will ever know, so we’re happy to give him the last word.
“All enterprise systems need master data management,” Scott said at our Profisee 2019 kickoff event. “Marketing, sales, finance, operations. There is benefit everywhere, in enterprises of any size, in every industry, across the globe, at any point in their data journey.”
Master data is the most important data, Scott said, because it is the data in charge. It’s about the “business nouns”–the essential elements of your business. Customers, partners, products, services. Whatever your business is, that’s where master data lives and breathes. You may have the best governance plan on the planet. Well-governed bad data is still bad data. It’s not going to help your business.
“Everybody is in the data business, whether they realize it or not,” Scott said. “Everything we touch turns to data. Business is transforming from analog to digital. No matter what your product is, data is your product. Business is changing because of data, and data is power.
With the right tools, you can harness that power right now.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The increasing awareness around data protection and data privacy as for example manifested by the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has a strong impact on data governance.
Terms as data protection by default and data privacy by default must be baked into our data policies and data standards not at least when dealing with data domains as employee data, customer data, vendor data and other party master data.
As a data controller you must have the full oversight over where your data is stored, who is updating the data and who is accessing the data for what purposes. You must know when you handle personal identifiable information and do that for the legitimate purposes in the given geography both in production environments and in test and development environments.
Having well enforced rules for deletion of data is a must too in the compliance era.
On one hand you can learn a lot from others who have been on a data governance journey. However, every organization is different, and you need to adapt the data governance practices all the way starting from the unaware maturity phase to the nirvana in the effective maturity phase.
Nevertheless, please find below a collection of 15 short best practices that will apply in general:
"The Profisee MDM platform provides exactly what we are looking for."
―Slobodan R.Read the full review
"MDM made straightforward for enterprise level initiatives."
―IT Enterprise ArchitectRead the full review
"Very affordable and user friendly. Great for modeling big data domains."
―User in Higher EducationRead the full review
"Great end-to-end product to make MDM easier for organizations."
―Internal ConsultantRead the full review
"Quick way to establish an MDM discipline. Software was easy to implement and manage."
―Director of Business IntelligenceRead the full review
"Proactive business partner, straight forward implementations, excellent vision"
―Business Intelligence ManagerRead the full review
"The price is right and the technical support is competent."
―BI AnalystRead the full review
"Excellent integration with common platforms. Superb enterprise data management platform."
―User in AccountingRead the full review
"The best thing about the software is the UI, it is very nice and clear. It is very easy to understand"
―Administrator in Computer SoftwareRead the full review