Why next-generation execs should care about data governance

Tech journalist and writer, Productivity Bytes; MakeUseOf

Our increasing reliance on modern technologies makes it easy to get lost in all the hype. These newer systems, however, may not adhere to data compliance standards for your organization. Take Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for example. They are forward-facing and handle a multitude of things, from collecting data to organizing and identifying relevant information for analysis to better serve your customers. If your tools don’t follow compliance measures, there’s the possibility that it can cause big problems. Even an established CIO or CDO can have a hard time understanding why, especially when they are not inherently IT-oriented.

There’s a general need for next-gen executives to not only understand corporate regulations, but be able to adhere to and follow them using metadata solutions like data governance. Metadata essentially provides context for the content that is collected, allowing companies to better organize and process documents, systems and anything that’s a result of raw data. In other words, without metadata, an organization can make almost no use of raw data, eliminating the value in all stored information.

But, as with regular data, metadata must be organized according to established guidelines and policies to make it more valuable. It’s “data about data” and without it, well, you simply have information you can’t really trust. As the business world’s top asset becomes data, data governance will ensure that data and information being handled is consistent, reliable and trustworthy. Establishing and deploying an analytics platform that embeds data governance and data integration, amongst other solutions, has never been more critical.

What is data governance?

Data governance is a system of rights and accountabilities designed to help facilitate the handling and usage of data.

The system will explicitly list who can take what action with various forms of information, when, with what methods and under what conditions. It’s designed to both organize and protect cross-functional teams who must work collaboratively on a single stream of data. And, since data governance is about managing information — to discern and identify value, as well as improve upon it — this is also where metadata comes into play. Effective metadata management is one of the most important duties of a data steward within a governance chain, thus launching standard data management policies, and, as a result, providing access to actionable intel.

Effective data governance results in better insights and information extracted from the data, more streamlined collaboration among departments and more efficient data management processes. For example, a proper data governance system will support automated analytics alongside manual usage of data by your internal teams. The reliable and consistent analytics is part of what drives governance, thanks to planning and predictive measures.

Of course, the most significant advantage is more efficient access to information and visibility for analytics or actionable intel.

Three reasons next-gen executives should care

The reason why data governance is so important may not jump right out at you, but there are some important benefits and advantages it can provide.

1. It’s empowering

A trusted analytics foundation must be in place for any organization to define, associate and separate unstructured and structured data into the appropriate areas. For those unfamiliar, unstructured data is any content that does not have an expressly defined model, nor is it organized in a pre-defined manner. It’s typically filled with text or appropriate details, including dates, numbers, facts and more. In the context of big data, however, unstructured data can also refer to natural language commands, photographs and video, communications, unstructured web pages and more.

With so much data moving around, it’s nearly impossible to know and keep track of everything coming in and where it’s flowing without additional support. Data governance systems help break all that down for a more streamlined understanding. You know your data is correct and accurate, and you know it’s available to the right users and departments.

2. It establishes trust

Part of empowerment comes from the fact that you know your data is both reliable and accurate. You have established trust with the systems and teams you have in place. But there’s another facet to all this, and it relates to the customer side of the equation.

When a company cares about its customers’ personal and sensitive data, it drives brand trust much higher. Since security and privacy are major concerns today, this is incredibly beneficial for nearly every business. Not to mention, brand loyalty is a waning element for organizations today. Data governance establishes trust in your data, but also trust from everyone else who can verify the data is safe and reliable. An organization with governance policies in place can even use it as a competitive advantage.

3. It drives business transformation and innovation

Unfortunately, every business will have some unusable, or “dark,” data. One way to turn this data into something more tangible is to filter it through analytics tools to find and extract new and innovative insights. The problem is, you may not even know or understand what information you have stored.

Having an analytics foundation powered by data governance kick starts the integration, replication and quality processes, and helps you monitor traditionally unusable data for insights. In this way, you could effectively see a transformative and innovative approach to how your organization uses data. More importantly, you’ll understand the fundamentals, which just isn’t possible without a data governance background.

Learn and grow

Data is one of the most important elements of any business today, thanks to modern technological advancements.

As a next-gen executive, potentially even as a future CDO, you can understand why a strong data governance foundation matters. It’s time we all had a better understanding of the implications, usage and potential of such information.

Learn how you can build a strong data governance foundation with IBM.