And Scalability With
15 September, 2022
Henri De Bruine,
Director of Data & Analytics
at Decision Inc. UK
Choosing the right data governance approach results in trustworthy, compliant data that drives the business forward quickly.
Data has become one of an organisation’s biggest assets. But many businesses aren’t using their data well and it’s hurting their effectiveness and profitability. A recent Gartner Survey (2021) found that half of CEOs are concerned about the integrity of the data they are using to make critical business decisions. And in the same survey, the financial impact of having poor business data was reported as £11m for a typical business – every single year.
The Need for Data Governance
The solution to this problem is data governance. The right data governance approach will give companies confidence in their data and result in increased productivity, new opportunities, and reduced operational risk.
Increased productivity will occur by giving your employees the right data they need to make decisions with. Data that is accurate and reliable, gives your staff the confidence that the decisions they are making are correct.
Good data governance will allow you to scale your business as you identify trends and patterns that create new opportunities. This occurs through the use of big data. Notable examples of big data application areas are transactional data such as in the retail industry, usage data such as mobile devices, and machinery status and function such as in mining. In general, the goals of big data analytics are to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends and customer preferences. The use of big data allows companies to make more informed decisions and improve their business operations.
Risk reduction occurs through ensuring that your data is compliant and that the right people are using it. As you build an approach to identify and remove risk you’ll reduce your chances of succumbing to data breaches and other data-related threats. This is significant because in the past year we’ve seen several data threats emerge, including ransomware, data leakage, and malicious insiders:
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data and demands a ransom for the decryption key. This type of attack can be devastating for businesses, as it can result in the loss of critical data.
Data leakage can occur through careless disposal of data (such as throwing away old hard drives), insecure data storage (such as using unencrypted cloud storage), or even via email (if sensitive data is sent to the wrong recipient), or doesn’t have appropriate encryption.
Malicious insiders are employees or contractors who intentionally misuse or steal data. This type of threat can be difficult to detect and prevent, as insiders usually have legitimate access to the data they’re targeting. To mitigate the risk of malicious insiders, it’s important to have strong security controls in place, including access control measures and activity monitoring. It’s also important to provide employees with regular training on security policies and procedures.
The Need for a Strategy-Based Approach
While businesses are aware of the need for data governance, many of the traditional approaches to governance are not working. In our work with clients, we often find that businesses go in two directions and we don’t think either of them are beneficial. The first is that they launch massive programs that try to meet the needs of every data end user. These approaches are often complex and hit roadblocks with legacy systems. Companies often don’t have the required personnel to carry it out successfully (e.g. data architects, data stewards, etc.) that are needed to carry out this approach. They also battle to show value from these efforts because there is often a large upfront cost before any outcomes are seen.
Alternatively, businesses take an individual application approach. Development teams set up customised data pipelines that can’t easily be repurposed or scaled across the organisation. These silos of data are often useful for the department that looks after them but it is very hard to get company-wide insights about the data.
The solution is to take a strategy-based approach to your data governance. This is where you identify the key data assets that drive your most important KPIs and your most important processes. Once these have been identified, these areas are focussed on building scale quickly.
This builds a faster, more scalable data-governance process. Rather than starting top down, it focuses on building momentum upwards. This strategy-based approach is best done in three steps.
Three Steps in a Strategy-Based Data Governance Approach
Step 1: Assess – Assess your current situation and identify your priorities
Start by identifying your key concerns about your data and identify which data is most critical for business outcomes. In terms of concerns about your data there are four important questions to ask:
Data Intelligence: How intelligent is your data?
Data Integrity: How confident are you about the integrity of your day?
Data Integration: How integrated is your data?
Data Security: How secure is your data?
Data Intelligence deals with the quality and structure of your data. Good data intelligence helps to easily answer questions such as ‘Where is my data stored?’, ‘How clean is my data?’, and ‘Is my data accurate?’
Data Integrity deals with the compliance of the data in terms of ethical and regulatory requirements. The increasing volume and variety of data being collected, as well as the heightened sensitivity around data privacy, have created new challenges for data governance. In response, regulators around the world have begun to take action. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is perhaps the most well-known example, but other jurisdictions have also introduced new laws and regulations or strengthened existing ones.
For businesses, this changing regulatory landscape has created both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, compliance with multiple and often conflicting regulatory regimes can be costly and time-consuming. On the other hand, data management and protection can be a competitive differentiator, and many organisations are finding that the benefits of good data governance outweigh the costs. As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, data governance will only become more important for businesses of all sizes.
Data Integration addresses the storage and movement of data – where the data is stored, how it is moved from one system to another, and why it is being shared. Is the data in siloes within specific parts of the business or is it accessible across the business to be used to generate insights and assessments of health?
Data Security deals with keeping the data safe, only granting access to trusted users and ensuring all users are educated on how to treat data as a high-value asset. You will want to assess who is responsible for managing and protecting data. You’ll also want to assess what policies are in place to govern how this data is collected, used and shared. You will also want to assess if encryption is needed to protect sensitive data; what backup procedures you have in place to prevent data loss, and who is monitoring data usage to identify potential security risks.
Once you have identified what concerns you have about your data, you will then want to identify which data is business-critical and needs to be prioritised to improve upon. This is where step two comes in.
Step 2: Select – Select the right technologies to rectify issues and fill gaps
Once you have identified your gaps, you should look at how to fill them. This will usually mean implementing new technology into your current ecosystem. When choosing technologies look for four important elements:
1. Solution Fit – with such a wide range of software products available, it’s important to consider whether the key features of the product are aimed at solving your particular data governance concerns; whether they involve intelligence, integrity, integration or security of the data. Where possible, set up demos with the vendors to see some of these features in action before making a choice.
2. Governance – look at solutions that offer robust data governance features, such as data privacy controls, auditing capabilities, data discovery tools, data classification tools, data encryption tools, and data loss prevention tools.
3. Scalability – your data management needs are likely to change over time, so it’s important to choose a solution that can grow with you. Look for a software platform that is easy to deploy and manage, even at scale.
4. Value – data management software can be expensive, so be sure to consider your budget when making your decision. Look for a solution that offers a good balance of features and price.
Step 3: Train – Train your people to create better capabilities and competence
To really take advantage of your data asset, people in your organisation must become data literate. The more you take advantage of the data in your organisation the more important it is that your people have the skills to interpret the insights that your data brings you. With the known challenges that come with implementing new technologies, such as low adoption, internal resistance and a critical skills gap, it’s essential to train and equip your people to see the advantages new technology can bring. As your staff become increasingly data literate they will start to see new opportunities from your data to scale and improve and you can repeat the steps, having shown the business value you have already created.
The Outcome of Strategy-Based Data Governance
Following a strategy-based approach to data governance will create trusted, secure environments, where data can be relied upon to make better business decisions, and where that data is always compliant. Achieving this will allow the increased use of AI and new technologies to give a competitive advantage. Rather than opportunities being lost from a lack of insight, new opportunities can be identified and taken advantage of.
Taking a strategy-based approach with your data governance really will give you the ability to scale and grow your business.
For more information about our Data Governance Solution:
Decision Inc. Pursuit of Progress
Decision Inc. helps organisations develop and deliver the Technology and Digital Operating Model to support their strategy. We create the capability for clients to innovate and compete by connecting the technologies, platforms and data they need to thrive in the Modern Era.
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