Unlocking the power of today’s big data through governance

Contrary to what some believe, data governance isn’t about creating a veil of secrecy around data

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People, businesses, and machines are generating data at a staggering pace. The business expectation is that you will use this data to gain insight, increase competitive advantage, and become truly data-driven. Data lies at the heart of this digital transformation, underway at most organizations.

But with so much data, created so quickly and from so many different sources, it’s hard to control. Today we find ourselves in the midst of data’s perfect storm—exponential growth coupled with an expanding list of regulations (i.e., General Data Protection Regulation, the Basel Accords, BCBS 239, Solvency II, and HIPAA) that require businesses to document how they process data.

While we have made data more accessible though data lakes and self-service analytics initiatives, we have reduced the effectiveness of the insight we glean from all of this data. In a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article, research showed that the gap between access and effectiveness has expanded by nearly 50 percent from 2016 to 2017 and is now the largest it has ever been over the last six years.  More data does not always mean better results.

There’s very little time and margin for error in getting a handle on all this data. So how can businesses ensure the quality and integrity of business data?

The answer lies in data governance. Data governance is about putting a business-wide program in place to help understand which data needs to be prioritized for broad-scale use, how it should be used properly to ensure privacy and transparency, and who’s responsible for making sure this happens at the pace the business needs. With a definitive governance program in place, business users can trust and rely on the data and apply it for business insight, decision-making, and competitive advantage. Data governance helps businesses establish the policies, controls, and workflows needed to:

  • Document data and show its lineage.
  • Set appropriate policies, and enforce them.
  • Address roles and responsibilities of everyone who touches that data, encouraging collaboration across the organization.

In recent years, data governance has gained significant attention as the ideal way to combat the data deluge. The market has grown quickly (valued at more than $2 billion globally in applications, components, and more), crosses markets and verticals, and addresses use cases as varied as analytics, privacy, and compliance. As data governance continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, it will add value and data protection to more advanced models and programs, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and internet of things.

One of the more significant, and exciting, changes in data governance has been the shift in focus to business users. Historically, data has been a technical issue owned by IT and locked within the organization by specific functions and silos. But if data is truly going to be an asset, everyday users—those who need to apply the data in different contexts—must have access and control over it and trust the data. As such, data governance is transforming from a technical tool to a business application. And chief data officers (CDOs) are starting to see the technologies behind data governance as their critical operating environment, in much the same way SAP serves CFOs, and Salesforce supports CROs. It is rare to find an opportunity to build a new system of record for a market.  

What we’re seeing today is the potential power of data governance: not only to help businesses address compliance issues and regulation, but also to unlock the value of all this data we’re generating. Contrary to what some believe, data governance isn’t about creating a veil of secrecy around data. It’s about putting the controls in place to open up access and ownership to ensure that the data is timely, accurate and trustworthy. It empowers users across the business to find, understand and trust the data they need to gain competitive advantage.

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