Done correctly, data governance can transform the way an organization manages and capitalizes on its data. However, because it spans a variety of people, processes, policies, and technologies data governance can be a daunting effort.

The term data governance can have a variety of definitions. But once you start exploring, every explanation of the term combines elements of strategy and execution.

Strategically, a data governance program can shape the corporate philosophy of data acquisition, management and archiving. It’s both a cultural shift that requires both business and IT sides of the organization to come together to define data elements and the rules that govern this data across applications, and a tangible framework that touches practically every part of your data management process.

A sound data governance program includes a governing body, a defined set of procedures and a plan to execute those procedures. And it takes someone to execute all this.

Data governance professionals take responsibility for creating and upholding data governance plans. They also commonly build and interact with data governance bodies within the organization and depend on those parties to update data governance policies as a company’s needs change. A successful data governance plan cannot succeed without data governance professionals.

A career in data governance requires having a problem-solving mindset, leadership qualities, and excellent communication and interpersonal skills as you will be interacting with everyone from the top managers to the people at a company in entry-level positions who deal with data in limited capacities.

Businesses benefit from data governance because it ensures data is consistent and trustworthy. This is critical as more organizations rely on data to make business decisions, optimize operations, create new products and services, and improve profitability.

Often, the early steps in data governance efforts can be the most difficult, as it is characteristic that different parts of an organization have diverging views of key enterprise data entities — such as customer or product; these differences must effectively be resolved as part of the data governance process. Critical information and data assets vary widely across organizations and departments. To the extent that data governance may impose strictures on how data is handled, it can become controversial in organizations.

Data governance has never been more important. With the advent of social media, big data, and cloud technologies, petabytes of data is scattered all over the place, both on-premises and off-premises. Without proper visibility and control of your organizational data, your business can not only risk revenue and productivity loss but also face existential crisis.

Melody K. Smith

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