Comparing data governance with HR and Finance

I think that sometimes people still struggle to understand what data governance is. That’s why, when I’m talking about data governance I like to first make a reference to HR and Finance. This is usually when I’m asked what I do for work, what do I speak at conferences about, what do I create videos on, and so on. I like to reference HR and Finance in my explanation of data governance because these are two departments or functions that everyone is familiar with. So here is my explanation, more or less using the same examples:

“We all know that Finance is in charge of handling financial assets. OK, that might be a cop-out explanation. Basically, Finance does any and all of the following, and not only:

  • Ensures salaries are paid,
  • Guarantees that purchases go through,
  • Handles the financial aspects of your product sales,
  • Files necessary documents to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or whichever the governing financial body of your country is,
  • Processes invoices, etc.

Following the same cop-out definition, the Human Resources (HR) department/ function handles employees as another important asset. That includes the:

  • Hiring and firing,
  • On-boarding,
  • Documents and tracks probationary reviews (sometimes even helps conducting them),
  • Ensures job descriptions are in line with what the individual is doing,
  • Ensures job postings are classified accordingly, etc.

So Finance & HR handle the processes, procedures, and internal policies of these assets, for the most part. Now, we all know that data is considered another asset and this is where data governance comes in. It provides all data management practices with the necessary foundation, strategy, and structure needed to ensure that data is managed as an asset and treated as such.”

What is your take on data governance? What analogy or example do you use to explain it?

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