what is data governance

I’ve seen and heard many people from different organizations talking about data governance. Some work with it, some have heard about it, but they are all impacted by it or the lack of it. So what is Data Governance?

There are plenty of definitions out, but before presenting you others, I would like to walk you through mine:

Data Governance is a discipline which provides the necessary policies, processes, standards, roles and responsibilities needed to ensure that data is managed as an asset.

So what does that mean exactly? It means that if you need to improve data quality, ensure information security, enable master data management, etc. you need to have a solid foundation tying all these practices together and defining and enabling the processes, tools, and resources needed to make these practices successful. Even simpler? Data governance provides the necessary guidance to manage your data as an asset.

Now let’s look at other definitions out there.

  • Data Governance Institute:

Data Governance is a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.

  • DAMA:

The exercise of authority, control, and shared decision-making (planning, monitoring, and enforcement) over the management of data assets.

  • SAP:

The practice of organizing and implementing policies, procedures and standards for the effective use of an organization’s structured/unstructured information assets.

  • TDAN:

The exercise and enforcement of decision-making authority over the management of data assets and the performance of data functions.


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  • Experian:

Data governance is a process to ensure data meets precise standards and business rules as it is entered into a system. Data governance enables businesses to exert control over the management of data assets. This process encompasses the people, process, and technology that is required to ensure that data is fit for its intended purpose.

  • Informatica:

Data governance encompasses the strategies and technologies used to make sure business data stays in compliance with regulations and corporate policies.

  • IBM:

Data governance is a quality control discipline for adding new rigor and discipline to the process of managing, using, improving and protecting organizational information.

  • DGPO 2014 Board Members (George Firican, Davida Berger, Michele Koch, Sal Passariello, Erin Kieffner):

A discipline that provides clear-cut policies; procedures; standards; roles; responsibilities; and accountabilities to ensure that data is well-managed as an enterprise resource.

  • IQ International (Joh Ladlay, Danette McGilvray, Anne-Marie Smith and Gwen Thomas):

The organization and implementation of policies, procedures, structure, roles, and responsibilities that outline and enforce rules of engagement, decision rights, and accountabilities of the effective management of information assets.

There are indeed a lot more Data Governance definitions which I haven’t posted, most of these being self-serving from other organizations with solutions geared towards data management practices and trying to adapt their own definition towards one of their products. In the end, having so many definitions out there creates confusion, but it also leaves room for your own organization to adopt which ever one fits your needs, purpose, and overall culture.

Do you have your own Data Governance definition?

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About the author 

George Firican

George Firican is the Director of Data Governance and Business Intelligence at the University of British Columbia, which is ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. His passion for data led him towards award-winning program implementations in the data governance, data quality, and business intelligence fields. Due to his desire for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing, he founded LightsOnData, a website which offers free templates, definitions, best practices, articles and other useful resources to help with data governance and data management questions and challenges. He also has over twelve years of project management and business/technical analysis experience in the higher education, fundraising, software and web development, and e-commerce industries.

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