Protect Valuable Data with These 10 Best Practices in Data Governance

Mar 29, 2023 Mohit Sharma

Data governance is a critical component of modern organizations, ensuring that data is managed securely, efficiently, and effectively. By implementing best practices in data governance, organizations can establish a framework for managing data strategically and ethically throughout its lifecycle. In this comprehensive guide, we explore the key components of data governance, and provide real-world insights to show you the bigger picture.

What is Data Governance?

Data governance encompasses a set of principles, policies, and processes designed to ensure that data is managed securely, ethically, and efficiently across an organization. It involves defining roles and responsibilities, establishing standards for data quality and security, and implementing controls to govern data access and usage. A well-defined data governance framework provides organizations with the structure and guidance needed to maximize the value of their data assets while minimizing risks and ensuring compliance with regulations.

Challenges in Data Governance

Challenges here are manifold and require concerted efforts to overcome. Here are some of the top obstacles encountered in implementing a successful data governance program:

  • Lack of data leadership: Effective governance hinges on strong executive leadership. Leaders must provide clear direction to the governance team, establish policies for the entire organization to adhere to, and foster communication with other stakeholders across the company.
  • Insufficient resources: These initiatives often struggle due to inadequate investment in budget or staffing. While essential for leveraging data to drive revenue, data governance typically does not generate revenue directly. Consequently, securing funding and resources can be challenging.
  • Siloed data: Over time, data tends to become siloed and fragmented, particularly as different business units or departments adopt new data sources and technologies. Addressing this issue requires ongoing efforts to break down siloes and promote data sharing and collaboration.
  • Regulatory compliance: With increasingly stringent data protection regulations worldwide, ensuring compliance poses a significant challenge for these programs. Organizations must navigate complex regulatory landscapes, stay abreast of evolving compliance requirements, and implement appropriate measures to safeguard sensitive data.
  • Cultural resistance: Resistance to change and lack of buy-in from stakeholders can impede the success of these initiatives. Overcoming cultural barriers requires effective communication, stakeholder engagement, and a concerted effort to foster a data-driven culture throughout the organization.

Establishing a Data Governance Framework

A robust data governance program begins with the establishment of a comprehensive framework that outlines the organization's approach to managing data. This framework should address the following key principles:

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Organizations must take a holistic approach to data governance, encompassing all data assets, including structured and unstructured data, metadata, and data derived from various sources.
  • Practitioner-Led Approach: Rather than relying solely on a centralized team of data stewards, organizations should empower practitioners across departments to take ownership of best practices within their areas of expertise.
  • Embedding Governance into Workflows: These practices should be integrated into the daily workflows of employees, ensuring that governance becomes an integral part of how data is managed and utilized across the organization.

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The 10 Best Practices in Data Governance

To implement an effective governance program, organizations should adhere to the following best practices:

1. Know Your Data:

Conduct a thorough inventory of all data assets within the organization, utilizing data discovery tools to gain insights into the extent and diversity of the data landscape. According to a study by Gartner, organizations that invest in data discovery and inventory tools can reduce data management costs by up to 30%.

2. Organize Your Data:

Establish a clear taxonomy, data classification scheme, and data catalog to organize data effectively. Define categories, sensitivity levels, and access controls to ensure that data is managed and accessed appropriately. A well-organized data catalog can improve data accessibility and reduce decision-making time by up to 30%, according to research by McKinsey & Company.

3. Manage Data Throughout the Lifecycle:

Implement policies and processes to manage data throughout its lifecycle, from acquisition to disposal. Assign data stewards responsible for overseeing the best practices in data governance at each stage and ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and policies. According to a report by the Ponemon Institute, organizations can reduce data breach costs by up to 40% by implementing effective data lifecycle management practices.

4. Prioritize Privacy and Security:

Make privacy and data security core principles of your governance program. Develop policies and controls to protect sensitive data, comply with privacy regulations, and mitigate security risks. The average cost of a data breach is $4.45 million, according to IBM's Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, 15% more than the previous year’s cost. This just goes to show that the data business is getting riskier, and there’s more at stake with each passing year.

5. Gain Business Buy-In:

Engage key stakeholders across departments to gain support for governance initiatives. Establish data stewards who have ownership of data within their respective areas and collaborate with business units to ensure that data governance practices align with business objectives and priorities. According to a study by Deloitte, organizations with strong leadership support for data governance are 70% more likely to achieve their data quality goals.

6. Set Goals and Metrics:

Define measurable goals and metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your governance program. Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) related to data quality, compliance, and user satisfaction and use them to track progress and identify areas for improvement. A survey by MIT Sloan Management Review found that 51% of Chief Data Officers prioritized establishing clear and effective governance in their list of responsibilities. Additionally, research by Gartner revealed that companies that align their governance metrics with business outcomes experience a 33% increase in data-driven decision-making.

7. Adapt and Evolve:

Recognize that data governance is an ongoing process that requires continuous adaptation and improvement. Stay abreast of changes in the regulatory landscape, emerging technologies, and evolving business needs, and adjust your governance practices accordingly. According to The State of Organizations 2023 report by McKinsey and Company, organizations that prioritize agility in governance are 2.2 times more likely to outperform their competitors in revenue growth.

8. Automation is Crucial:

Manual data management processes are inadequate for modern data governance. Automation addresses the challenges posed by data complexity and volume. By automating repetitive tasks, organizations can achieve scalability, efficiency, and consistency in their data governance efforts. Automation examples include granular column-level access control, auto-constructed data lineage visualization, auto-propagation of policies through lineage, and auto-generated audit logs. Leveraging automation streamlines governance tasks, reducing the time and effort required for activities such as data classification.

9. Invest in Tech – But Make Wise Choices:

Investing in the right technology is crucial for effective data governance. With cloud computing and decreasing production costs, end-users' expectations in enterprises are influenced by the consumerization of technology. Seek tools offering intuitive interfaces, hyper-personalization, and robust collaboration features. Key capabilities include an easily searchable data catalog, customized workspaces, a comprehensive business glossary, granular access controls, automation tooling, cross-system data lineage, and data quality profiling. These features enable streamlined data management, driving improved quality, reliability, and security, while ensuring regulatory compliance.

10. Roles and Responsibilities Identification:

Identifying roles and responsibilities is crucial for effective data governance implementation. Clearly delineated roles ensure accountability and facilitate collaboration across departments. Establishing a structured hierarchy of ownership fosters a cohesive approach to managing data initiatives. Common roles in governance programs include the Data Governance Council, responsible for strategic direction and policy approval, the Data Governance Board, focused on developing data-related policies and practices, Data Managers tasked with database design and maintenance, Data Owners accountable for specific data assets, Data Stewards ensuring data quality and adherence to governance processes, and Data Users directly involved in data entry, usage, and analysis. By defining these roles, organizations can streamline governance efforts and leverage data as a strategic asset more effectively.

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Why Should You Follow These Best Practices in Data Governance?

The best practices outlined here address the reasons behind the failure of some governance programs. Although many organizations have implemented data governance programs, their effectiveness is not guaranteed. According to Gartner's D&A governance survey in 2023, 63% of respondents stated that their governance objectives received increased investments, aiming at optimizing data for business processes and productivity. However, other recent studies by Gartner show that only 20% of these initiatives will succeed by 2027, meaning that the remaining 80% will owe their failure to a resistance in adopting a modern governance approach. All in all, the key here is not just knowing the best-practices, but to effectively implement them with a clear vision, and an agile and open mindset. Having a data partner can come handy here, boosting your chances of success significantly with expert insights and industry knowledge.

Parting Thoughts

Mastering data governance is essential for organizations looking to unlock the full potential of their data assets while mitigating risks and ensuring compliance. By following the best practices outlined in this guide and leveraging real-world examples and statistics, organizations can establish a robust governance program that supports their strategic objectives and drives business success. With this as a cornerstone of their data strategy, organizations can navigate the complexities of the digital landscape with confidence and use the power of data to fuel innovation and growth.

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Mohit Sharma

Constantly looking to fuel personal and professional growth, I’m also a wordsmith, a reader, a sports lover, and a fitness enthusiast, who believes that learning via exploration and curiosity is growth's only true form. I use my free time to interact with people from different walks of life, and try to learn about anything under the sun.