Beautiful dashboards, sleek graphics, and all the right design elements do not good data make. Data is only as useful as it is accurate, and even just one little mistake can send a business into a downward spiral. Unfortunately, too many businesses rely on bad data to make big decisions. This happens for a number of reasons, including failing to identify trustworthy data sources, collecting too much data, and approaching data with a bias. Fortunately, there is a way to combat these pitfalls and create beautiful, intuitive, and user-friendly dashboards that are as accurate as they are attractive: Data Governance.
What is Data Governance?
Data Governance refers to the enforcement of authority over data collection, reporting, and management. In the simplest terms, it’s the control of data and the use of that data. Thanks to the World Wide Web and the rise of Big Data, we have access to more information than ever before. While more information is a (generally) good thing, it can be more difficult to make sense of that information, keep it clean, and to use it in an effective way. That’s where a data steward comes in. Data Stewardship is the formalization of accountability for data management. The person assigned to this role will be responsible for all things data, including data compliance, data integrity, and data objectives.
Why is Data Governance Important?
Until very recently, businesses relied on department heads, CEOs, shareholders and other integral members of an organization for data collection and management. However, this proved to be time-consuming and ineffective. Too many cooks in the data kitchen can lead to competing biases, skewed perspectives, inaccurate data interpretation, and incongruent data sources. Additionally, data mining, management, and reporting is a meticulous and ongoing process that requires special skills and knowledge. As a result, data management wasn’t getting the due attention it deserved.Data management is a full-time job, and requires full-time supervision. Click To Tweet
With full-time data governance, organizations can get a handle on their data and improve business intelligence, which can lead to opportunities for improvement they never had before. From identifying new business opportunities to improving customer retention rates and from increasing employee satisfaction rates to creating a more positive company culture, the benefits of data governance are many.
How to Establish Data Governance
If you’re ready to establish data governance in your organization, here are four steps to help you get started successfully:
Empower the Right People
The first step towards successful data governance is picking the right governor. You may not need to look far; this person may already work with your organization. The right person will be responsive, agile, and organized. Real time data is crucial to any and all business decisions, and the data steward should be able to respond to changes in information and make decisions on the go. Without this agility, data governance is at risk of becoming another bureaucratic hurdle, one that dictates things get done without necessarily relying on the best information.
If you cannot identify anyone in-house who is capable of approaching data in an objective and non-biased way, don’t stress! A lot of data governors come from without, and oftentimes, these new parties are more successful in the role than individuals with an established stake in the company. However, the right data steward will provide progress reports to the CEO and board of directors nonetheless, if just to keep them up to date on what is happening.
If there are not enough resources to lay the role on one person’s shoulders alone, consider a governing council. This council will be responsible for implementing governance strategies, preserving data integrity, and ensuring that all data adheres to strict federal regulations. Look towards your shareholders and leadership for those voices of reason that are willing and able to instate and oversee a governing council.
Create a Data Governance Strategy
Once you have a data governor or governing council, it’s time to develop a strategy. This strategy should detail:
- How you plan to maintain data integrity (i.e. which sources you will mine from, how you plan to identify their trustworthiness, and what markers of success you plan on relying on)
- Outline who will be responsible for processes along the data pipeline
- How to cross reference data sets.
For instance, only one or two people should be charged with data mining—any more than that and the amount of data you collect and what data sources you use may become difficult to control. A different set of individuals should be responsible for crosschecking information to make sure that it is accurate. A team should also be in place to develop fail safes, which will be in place to ensure that no data gets through which has been jeopardized by error, human or otherwise.
While a short-term strategy is effective in getting your data governance off the ground, the plan should really be long-term and provide a vision of where you want your governance practices to be in the next few years. In order to do this, your governor or governance council will have to create realistic milestones, establish KPIs, and implement tracking procedures by which they plan to measure and report on company progress (as well as on the progress of their own efforts).
Data management is an inherently risky business. The right data in the wrong hands can put your customers at risk for identity theft, can put your company at risk for security breaches, or can put everyone at risk for fraud and abuse. Conversely, the wrong data in the right hands can result in poor and uninformed decision making, which can lead to substantial loss, often monetary in nature. To prevent any data—right or wrong—from being used incorrectly, identify your data risks early on so that you can better prepare against them. Sometimes, this may involve referring to past breaches or even analyzing what went wrong from a competitor’s standpoint.
Assess, Measure, Define, and Stay Nimble
A company’s data governance efforts are only as successful as the effort they’re willing to put toward it. Organizations change on a daily basis, which means that their data—and any risks and value associated with it—changes too. Without someone constantly monitoring change on a weekly or even daily basis, your company risks losing sight of data goals and falling back into a reactive mindset as opposed to the proactive mindset data governance aimed to create. Your data council should always be on the lookout for and assessing change, and reacting to it by redefining goals and strategies to achieve company objectives and to remain in compliance with federal regulations.
Data is one of the most valuable resources that a company can have, but it is also one of the most challenging to manage. With good data governance, you can get a true handle on your data and do much more than protect it — you can use it to drive informed business decisions that can change the course of your company for the better.