The data governance story: An introduction to governance and metadata

Offering Manager, IBM InfoSphere Information Governance Catalog, IBM

The need for information is paramount to our need to excel and succeed. Businesses rely on information for strategic planning and driving growth. Individuals rely on information to make decisions and gain understanding of things. All information is driven by knowledge, and for knowledge to be an instrument of value and a key to success; it must be accessible, complete and accurate.

Governance, or more precisely, data governance, is the science of classifying and securing information, while making information accessible and shared for insightful and analytical calculation and usage. Governance thus requires people, processes and definitions so that the available information can deliver a complete and accurate set of knowledge.

Governance is a shared responsibility

Governance is required at all levels of an organization:

  • The corporate level—defining the overall standard and requirement of information
  • The distribution or regional level—interpreting the standard and requirement for localized language, laws and individualized requirements
  • The domain or local level—applying the standards and requirements according to the precise systems and processes

The regional level benefits from the corporate level, and further localizes the standard for the implementation at the local level. Governance therefore is a shared responsibility.

Building blocks of governance

Now that we know that each level has a responsibility for ensuring governance, one might wonder what are the steps or building blocks for initiating governance, or supplementing governance to existing systems, projects and workflows?

Governance consists of basic foundational elements that allow for:

  1. Defining the understanding or meaning of information, in a well-formed glossary aligned with the language of the business. Glossaries should not be confused with dictionaries, as they include relationships and dependencies, usages and structures, domains and owners.
  2. Documenting the requirements or specifications of information, as a set of Policies and supporting Rules. Such rules, capture the tribal knowledge or restriction when accessing or sharing such information, and are associated with the need to control data access or lifecycle.
  3. Establishing the ownership of information, responsibility and control. The act of describing and tagging information, to better facilitate discovery and usage. Further, ensuring the adherence of policies and the usage of information.
  4. Identifying the structure and markup of information, through advanced analysis and profiling data, driving auto-classification and auto-identification services and self-service governance.
  5. Capturing the usage or consumption of information, as information is formed and shaped across the information landscape. Which expressions or processes altered the information, influencing the confidence or trust of that information and the analytics it may support.

These foundational elements provide clarity and insight, and drive stewardship.

Metadata and governance: Similar yet different

These foundational elements are rooted in business metadata, and the ability to describe information. Metadata, while defined as information about information, in fact represents information that is not well documented or implicit. Technical metadata describes the data stores, systems and processes, while operational metadata describes the run-time scripts and results. Together, metadata provides a complete understanding of the meaning, requirement, classification, structure and usage of information, affording a user greater understanding and clarity.

While governance and governance solutions benefit from metadata and metadata management, they are in fact different in that they are driven by the business as a direct response or to support a specific requirement – such as BCBS-239 or HIPPA. Metadata management solutions are often driven by IT and architecture to provide access to information through facets and annotations.

IBM has been positioned as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Metadata Management Solutions

With the above foundation, governance can lend itself to the general requirement to search, explore and understand information and deliver knowledge to the user. To aid the user, and provide a complete understanding, a user will benefit from understanding How is that information being used, or consumed. Allowing controlled access to information to drive knowledge, reporting and process.

In my next blog post in this series, I explore further the development of the foundational principles of governance, the support and management of a catalog, and benefits delivered to the individual and enterprise to support data governance.

A robust governance solution delivers the capabilities to support, manage and deliver both the foundational elements for any governance solution or requirement, as well as allow for a complete view of information within a catalog that is easy to search and explore, easy to access and share. Learn more about IBM’s Data Governance solutions.