The Top 6 Benefits of Data Governance

by Zak Cole       • December 7, 2017

It’s important we recognize the benefits of data governance (DG) beyond General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance.

Data governance is mandatory for GDPR, so the incentive in implementing it before the May 2018 deadline is clear. However, the timeline’s pressures could also be viewed as somewhat of a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, introducing a mandate shines a spotlight on a practice many businesses have neglected. A First San Francisco Partners (FSFP) study found that only 47.9% of respondents have a DG program in place.

We are beginning to see the shift, though. The FSFP study also found that 29% of businesses are in the early stages of a DG roll-out, with an additional 19% at the research and planning stage.

The sword’s other edge is that much of this swing is reactionary, encouraged by the fast-approaching GDPR deadline.

By introducing a mandate for data governance on a timeline, many businesses will be tempted to do the bare minimum just to meet the standards for compliance.

Unfortunately, that means the following benefits of data governance will be left on the table.

Top 6 Benefits of Data Governance

Better Decision-Making

One of the key benefits of data governance is better decision-making. This applies to both the decision-making process, as well as the decisions themselves.

Well-governed data is more discoverable, making it easier for the relevant parties to find useful insights. It also means decisions will be based on the right data, ensuring greater accuracy and trust.

Operational Efficiency

Data is an incredibly valuable in the age of data-driven business. Therefore, it should be treated as the asset it is.

Consider a manufacturing business’ physical assets, for example. Well-run manufacturing businesses ensure their production-line machinery undergoes regular inspections, maintenance and upgrades so the line operates smoothly with limited down-time.

The same approach should apply to data.

Improved Data Understanding and Lineage

Data governance is about understanding what your data is and where it is stored. When implemented well, data governance provides a comprehensive view of all data assets.

It also provides greater accountability. By assigning permissions, it is far easier to determine who’s responsible for specific data.

Greater Data Quality

As data governance aids in discoverability, businesses with effective data governance programs also benefit from improved data quality. Although technically two separate initiatives, some of their goals overlap.

These include, but are not limited to, the standardization of data and its consistency. One way to clearly differentiate the two programs is to consider the questions posed by each field.

Data quality wants to know how useful and complete data is, whereas data governance wants to know where the data is and who is responsible for it.

Data governance improves data quality, because answering the latter makes it easier to tackle the former.

Regulatory Compliance

As mentioned in the introduction, if you haven’t yet adopted a data governance program, compliance is perhaps the best reason to do so. Hefty fines with an upper limit of €20 million or 4% or annual global turnover – whichever is greater – are nothing to baulk at.

That said, GDPR fines are only incentivising something you should already be keen to do. Data-driven businesses that aren’t enjoying the aforementioned benefits are fundamentally stifling their own performance.

It could even be argued that to be truly data-driven, data governance is a must.

Increased Revenue

Driving revenue should, in fact, be higher on the DG benefit list. However, it’s positioned here because the aforementioned benefits accumulatively influence it.

All the benefits of data governance addressed above help businesses make better, faster decisions with more certainty.

It means that less costly errors – in the form of false starts and even data breaches – are made. It means that you spend less money by managing risk, and closing the most vulnerable holes in your business’ security, instead of more money retrospectively, dealing with PR and financial fallout.

What You Need to Do

Considering the benefits and their accumulative real-term value , data-driven organizations can’t afford to leave data governance to IT alone. This is why Data Governance 1.0 has ultimately failed.

But even now, 23% of businesses in the FSFP study said information technology leads their data governance efforts.

In the current climate, this mind-set is inherently flawed. We’ve reached a new business age in which data is considered more valuable than oil. Yet many businesses are still reluctant in treating data with the same care as their physical assets.

This needs to change. If data is indeed this valuable, we need to treat data governance as a strategic initiative.

Data Governance 2.0 involves the entire enterprise, including department heads and C-level executives, who stand to benefit from data insights gained throughout the process.

For more data governance best practices and useful statistics, click here.

Data governance is everyone's business

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