Data Governance

What is Data Governance?

Data governance is a collection of processes, roles, policies, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information that enables an organization to achieve its goals.

  • Establish the processes and responsibilities that provide the quality and security of the data used across a business or organization.
  • Is the practice of identifying and collecting data across a business or organization.
  • Defines who can take what action upon what data, in which situations, and using what methods.


Data Government Policy

A data governance policy is a document that formally outlines how organizational data will be managed and controlled. A few common areas covered by data governance policies are:

  • Data quality – ensuring data is correct, consistent and free of “noise” that might be impeded usage and analysis.
  • Data availability – ensuring that data is available and easy to consume by the business functions that require it.
  • Data usability – ensuring data is clearly structured, documented and labeled, enables easy search and retrieval, and is compatible with tools used by business users.
  • Data integrity – ensuring data retains its essential qualities even as it is stored, converted, transferred and viewed across different platforms.
  • Data security – ensuring data is classified according to its sensitivity, and defining processes for safeguarding information and preventing data loss and leakage.

Addressing all of these points requires a right combination of people skills, internal processes, and the appropriate technology.

Data Stewards

Data stewards are individual team members responsible for overseeing data and implementing policies and processes. Data stewards are typically subject matter experts who are familiar with the data used by a specific business functions or department. These roles are typically filled by IT or data professionals with expertise on data domains and assets. Data stewards may also play a role as engineers, quality analysts, data modelers, and data architects. They also ensure the fitness of data elements, both content and metadata, administer the data and ensure compliance with regulations.

Data Governance vs Data Management

Data governance is a strategy used while data management is the practices used to protect the value of data. When creating a data governance strategy, you incorporate and define data management practices. Data governance examples and policies direct how technologies and solutions are used, while management leverages these solutions to achieve tasks.

Data Governance Frameworks

A data governance framework is a structure that helps an organization assign responsibilities, make decisions, and take action on enterprise data. Data governance frameworks can be classified into three types:

  • Command and control – the framework designates a few employees as data stewards, and requires them to take on data governance responsibilities.
  • Traditional – the framework designates a larger number of employees as data stewards, on a voluntary basis, with a few serving as “critical data stewards” with additional responsibilities.
  • Non-invasive – the framework recognizes people as data stewards based on their existing work and relation to the data; everyone who creates and modifies data becomes a data steward for that data.

Essential elements of a data governance framework include:

  • Funding and management support – a data governance framework is not meaningful unless it is backed by management as an official company policy.
  • User engagements – ensuring those who consume the data understand and will cooperate with data governance rules.
  • Data governance council – a formal body responsible for defining the data governance framework and helping to enact it in the organization.

While many companies create data governance frameworks independently, there are several standards which can help formulate a data governance framework, including COBIT, ISO/IEC 38500, and ISO/TC 215.

Goals of Information Governance Initiatives

Data and information governance helps organizations achieve goals such as:

  • Complying with standards like SOX, Basel I/II, HIPAA, GDPR
  • Maximizing the value of data and enabling its re-use
  • Improving data-driven decision making
  • Reducing the cost of data management

Data Governance Strategy

A data governance strategy informs the content of an organization’s data governance framework. It requires you to define, for each set of organizational data:

  • Where: Where it is physically stored
  • Who: Who has or should have access to it
  • What: Definition of important entities such as “customer”, “vendor”, “transaction”
  • How: What the current structure of the data is
  • Quality: Current and desired quality of the source data and consumable data sets
  • Goals: What we want to do with this data
  • Requirements: What needs to happen for the data to meet the goals

What is a Data Governance Policy and Why is it Important?

Data governance policies are guidelines that you can use to ensure your data and assets are used properly and managed consistently. These guidelines typically include policies related to privacy, security, access, and quality. Guidelines also cover the roles and responsibilities of those implementing policies and compliance measures.

The purpose of these policies is to ensure that organizations are able to maintain and secure high-quality data. Governance policies form the base of your larger governance strategy and enable you to clearly define how governance is carried out.

Data Governance Roles

Data governance operations are performed by a range of organizational members, including IT staff, data management professionals, business executives, and end users. There is no strict standard for who should fill data governance roles but there are standard roles that organizations implement.

Chief Data Officer

Chief data officers are typically senior executives that oversee your governance program. This role is responsible for acting as a program advocate, working to secure staffing, funding, and approval for the project, and monitoring program progress.

Data Governance Manager and Team

Data governance managers may be covered by the chief data officer role or may be separate staff. This role is responsible for managing your data governance team and having a more direct role in the distribution and management of tasks. This person helps coordinate governance processes, leads training sessions and meetings, evaluates performance metrics, and manages internal communications.

Data Governance Committee

The data governance committee is an oversight committee that approves and directs the actions of the governance team and manager. This committee is typically composed of data owners and business executives.

They take the recommendations of the data governance professionals and ensure that processes and strategies align with business goals. This committee is also responsible for resolving disputes between business units related to data or governance.

A 4-Step Data Governance Model

Managing data governance principles effectively requires creating a business function, similar to human resources or research and development. This function needs to be well defined and should include the following process steps:

  1. Discovery—processes dedicated to determining the current state of data, which processes are dependent on data, what technical and organizational capabilities support data, and the flow of the data lifecycle. These processes derive insights about data and data use for use in definition processes. Discovery processes run simultaneously with and are used iteratively with definition processes.
  2. Definition—processes dedicated to the documentation of data definitions, relationships, and taxonomies. In these processes, insights from discovery processes are used to define standards, measurements, policies, rules, and strategies to operationalize governance.
  3. Application—processes dedicated to operationalizing and ensuring compliance with governance strategies and policies. These processes include the implementation of roles and responsibilities for governance.
  4. Measurement—processes dedicated to monitoring and measuring the value and effectiveness of governance workflows. These processes provide visibility into governance practices and ensure auditability.

Typical Data Governance Questions

  1. Can these data be trusted?
  2. Who understand these data?
  3. Who does what in terms of data governance?
  4. Where can we find the data needed for the process?
  5. Who should be able to change this data?
  6. What happens after changes are made?


Data Governance Maturity Model

Evaluating the maturity of your governance strategies can help you identify areas of improvement. When evaluating your practices, consider the following levels.

Level 0: Unaware

Level 0 organizations have no awareness of data governance meaning and no system or set of policies defined for data. This includes a lack of policies for creating, collecting, or sharing information. No data models are outlined and no standards are established for storing or transferring data.

Action items

Strategy planners and system architects need to inform IT and business leaders about the importance and benefits of data governance and Enterprise Information Management (EIM).

Level 1: Aware

Level 1 Organizations understand that they are lacking data governance solutions and processes but have few or no strategies in place. Typically IT and business leaders understand that Enterprise Information Management (EIM) is important but have not taken action to enforce the creation of governance policies.

Action Items

Planners and architects need to begin determining organization needs and developing a strategy to meet those needs.

Level 2: Reactive

Level 2 organizations understand the importance and value of data and have some policies in place to protect data. Typically, the practices used to protect data by these organizations are ineffective, incomplete, or inconsistently enforced.

Action items

Management teams need to push for consistency and standardization for the implementation of policies.

Level 3: Proactive

Level 3 organizations are actively working to apply governance, including implementing proactive measures. Data governance is a part of all organizational processes. However, there is typically no universal system for governance. Instead, information owners are responsible for management.

Action items

Organizations need to evaluate governance at the departmental level and centralize responsibilities.

Level 4: Managed

Level 4 organizations have developed and consistently implemented governance policies and standards. These organizations have categorized their data assets and can monitor data use and storage. Additionally, oversight of governance is performed by an established team with roles and responsibilities.

Action Items

Teams should actively track data management tasks and perform audits to ensure that policies are applied consistently.

Level 5: Effective

Level 5 organizations have achieved reliable data governance structures. They may have individuals in their teams with data governance certifications and have established experts. These organizations can effectively leverage their data for competitive advantage and improvements in productivity.

Action items

Teams should work to maintain governance and verify compliance. Teams may also actively investigate methods for improving proactive governance. For example, by researching best practices for specific governance cases, like big data governance.

Data Governance Best Practices

A data governance initiative must start with broad management support and acceptance from stakeholders who own and manage the data (called data custodians).

It is advisable to start with a small pilot project, on a set of data which is especially problematic and in need of governance, to show stakeholders and management what is involved, and demonstrate the return on investment of data governance activity.

When rolling out data governance across the organization, use templates, models and existing tools when possible in order to save time and empower organizational roles to improve quality, accessibility and integrity for their own data. Evaluate and consider using data governance tools which can help standardize processes and automate manual activities.

Most importantly, build a community of data stewards willing to take responsibility for data quality. Preferably, these should be the individuals who already create and manage data sets, and understand the value of making data usable for the entire organization.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s