why data governance is a must

Data is (arguably, depending on who you talk to) the most important asset that any organization has. Well, people are the most important asset, but that should be implied, right? Alright, data is one of the most important assets. Data governance helps to ensure that data is usable, accessible, and protected and treats data as an asset to be utilized to identify trends, cost savings, behaviors and so much more.

Effective data governance leads to better data analytics, which in turn leads to better decision making and improved operations support. It also helps to avoid data inconsistencies or errors in data, which lead to integrity issues, poor decision making, and a variety of organizational problems. A decision based on bad data is just a train wreck in the making. A train wreck that could have been prevented.

Data governance also plays an essential role in regulatory compliance, ensuring that organizations are consistently compliant with all levels of regulatory requirements - this is key for minimizing risks and reducing the likelihood of big regulatory fines for non-compliance.

At its core, data governance leads to improved data quality, decreased data management costs, and increased access to data for all stakeholders. The result is better decision making and better business outcomes. The Return on Investment (ROI) is definitely there.

A strong data governance strategy

While the benefits of a strong data governance framework are clear, there are some more specific organizational objectives that you’ll want to keep in mind when creating and implementing one that fits your organization.

And while every organization’s plan will look different, there are some guiding objectives to keep in mind as you develop and implement data governance.

A few key objectives are:

  • Ensuring that data is used properly. This helps to prevent data errors and the misuse of personal or sensitive data. The best way to meet this objective is through clear policies on data usage and effective procedures to monitor and enforce those policies. And yes, clearly defined technical and business metadata.
  • Complying with all regulatory requirements. This is generally a given when it comes to data governance, but something to keep in mind through all phases of development and implementation.
  • Improving data security. One of the key objectives of data governance is ensuring that all data is secure and that there is no unauthorized data access.

Considering these objectives as you create and implement a data governance framework will make the process easier and more effective. And, as you consider these objectives, make sure to consider any additional goals that are unique to your organization or that might be necessary to address specific organizational goals.

All this comes together to create your organizations unique ‘why’ -the why you are implementing data governance. And this, along with change management strategies, is what will drive your data governance initiative forward and ensure that everyone is onboard. It will ensure that your initiative becomes a program.

The importance of understanding ‘why’

Understanding why your organization is implementing data governance is crucial for several reasons, but most importantly you need to know the ‘why’ in order to guide your data governance strategy and the change management adoption strategy within your organization.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just know that you should have data governance, it’s also important that everyone within your organization understands why you should have data governance. If not, everyone understands and can relate to the ‘why’ then there is a risk that the whole initiative could come off the rails.

That might sound dramatic, however, there are countless examples of organizations that have designed excellent data governance frameworks that are well suited to their businesses that have eventually failed because they failed to address the culture change in the very beginning.

Simply, you need everyone, particularly those who will be involved in the implementation of the data governance initiative to buy into it for it to be a success. You cannot start to manage your data as an asset and realize the value of it if you don't address culture change and adopt a change management strategy early in the process.

Potential ‘whys’ 

Whilst not every organization will implement data governance for exactly the same reasons there are some general universal ‘whys’ that provide stakeholders with a jumping off point when beginning to build a data driven culture.

Create the foundation for establishing a data-driven organization

Data governance in the first step in creating an organization which is driven to make decisions that are based on undisputable data. And it’s a simple fact that companies that are data savvy are more likely achieve growth than companies that continue to operate in data silos.

Compliance to regulatory requirements

Data governance allows organizations to have clear control processes over their data to align with pre-set business rules around compliance and data privacy. Data governance allows organizations to ensure they have processes in place to control data and assure that all regulations are met in all your organization's data practices. This makes it easier to stay compliant - and avoid big fines for not being.

Improving data quality

In many larger organizations the people responsible for inputting the data are not fully aware of the data quality requirements of the people using the data - or of the different business processes in which the data is used.

A company-wide data governance initiative with clearly defined roles and responsibilities allows data users to measure, monitor, and improve the data quality dimensions that are relevant to them.

Breaks down data and people silos

Data governance helps with the mapping and organization of an institution’s data and ensures organizations have more visibility and control over the data being gathered across you’re the company. This allows data users to share insights and eliminate data silos.

Proper governance enables collaboration across departments, fostering broader insights, fueling better decisions, and overall promoting a more data-centric culture.

Brings an understanding and control on how data is used

Data governance allows users understand data usage, troubleshoot, and prevent data issues. And, as we’ve already discussed, greater data visibility creates data savvy companies that are more likely achieve growth than companies that are not.

Data governance moves with your business

Data changes all the time and so do business needs. That means data governance needs to continue to adapt to match with the needs of the organization. Data governance will move with your business and continue to deliver value.

While many companies struggle to get it right, every company can succeed by shifting its mindset from thinking of data governance as frameworks and policies to embedding it strategically into the way the organization works every day.

Do you want to learn more?

Practical Data Governance: Implementation - online course

Learn how to implement a data governance program from scratch or improve the one you have.

  • Ibrahim Babangida Birema says:

    Good evening,
    Data is one of modern currency for the digital taxation. How can we utilize data to generate revenue? Thanks

  • Ibrahim Babangida Birema says:

    Collecting and sharing of Data is one of the currency of digital technology. I wish to have direct contact with you Sir.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    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.

    You may also like:

    How to Become a Data Science Freelancer

    George Firican


    Data Governance in 2024

    Data Governance in 2024
    5 Steps to Achieve Proactive Data Observability – Explained Over Beers