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Best practices in data governance

Do you know where to find specific data in your business, or who to contact for that data?

Modern businesses know making data-driven decisions is critical to improving their bottom line. A strong data governance strategy saves time and money by improving data quality and making it easy for teams to get the information they need. You can make sure you get the benefits of a governance strategy by following data governance best practices.

Let’s learn more about data governance and how using best practices makes your strategy successful.

What is data governance?

Data governance is the set of processes that make sure data meets business standards and rules as it’s entered into a system. It lets businesses control the management of data assets. Data governance involves three aspects that make sure data is usable, accessible, and fits its intended use:

  • People
  • Process
  • Technology

A data governance plan is important for different types of organizations and industries. It’s especially important for those that have regulatory compliance, such as finance and insurance. To meet compliance regulations, organizations must have formal data management processes in place to govern their data throughout its lifecycle.

While data governance is a key focus for many organizations, not all strategies return the anticipated results.

What are data governance best practices?

Your business will get the most from a data governance strategy by following strong data governance practices. As we know what methods work best when building a data governance policy.

Check out our top six data governance best practices to help you start collecting, storing, and using your data more effectively.

1. Start small and build to the big picture

Data governance is all about people, process, and technology. You should try to keep all three factors in mind when planning and executing your data strategy. However, you don’t need to focus on improving all three areas all at once.

Start small at the beginning and build up to the full picture. Start with the people, follow with the process, and end with the technology. Each component should build on one another before it to create a well-rounded data governance strategy.

Without the right people, the process can become obsolete. If the people and processes aren’t managing your data as you planned, no state-of-the-art technology will be able to suddenly fix the problem.

Find and hire the right people before moving on to developing a process. Use these data experts to help you define a data governance process. Then you can source the technology that works best to automate your processes and gets the job done efficiently and effectively.

2. Get business stakeholders on board

You need executive buy-in to create a data governance strategy, but getting a green light is just the start. You also want to inspire stakeholders to take action so your governance plan gets adopted across your organization.

The best way to get executives excited about your plan is to build a business case for your data governance practices. By building a business case, you show leadership the specific benefits they can expect from a data governance strategy.

Download the data governance white paper


3. Define data governance team roles

Data governance practices are only successful when roles, responsibilities, and ownership structure are clearly defined. Defining the data governance roles of team members across your organization creates the framework on which a governance plan runs.

The goal of data governance is to improve data quality and collaboration between teams. It needs input and data ownership from all parts of your organization. While each organization’s data governance structure will look slightly different, there are a few key players to use in your framework:

  • Data governance council or board: This team oversees the entire governance strategy. They help guide the data governance plan through strategic suggestions. This team also typically prioritizes aspects of the strategy and approves new policies.
  • Tactical team members: Members of the tactical data governance team develop data governance strategies based on the council’s suggestions. They create the data processes and policies that are then approved by the data governance council.
  • Owners: Data owners are the team members who are responsible for specific data. This is the person of contact when someone needs a certain type of data. For example, if you need last month’s sales information, you contact the sales data owner.
  • Data users: These are the team members who actively input and use data as part of their regular work responsibilities.

4. Use metrics to measure progress

As with any change, it is critical to measure progress and display the success of your data governance program. Once you have executive sponsorship from your business case, you need data to support each step you take. Plan on defining your metrics before you start introducing data polices. This lets you set a starting point based on your current data management practices.

Track your progress using the original metrics regularly. Not only does this show how much progress has been made, but it serves as a checkpoint to make sure your data governance best practices are effective in practice and not just in theory. A plan that’s flawless on paper may not transfer to real life as well as you hoped. It is important to keep a close eye on your governance strategy and be flexible regarding adjustments and improvements.

5. Encourage frequent communication

Whether you’re just starting a data governance program or have been practicing one for years, communicating early and often is essential. Consistent and effective communication helps show the impact of the strategy—from highlighting successes to reorganizing after a setback.

An executive team member, such as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Data Officer (CDO), should become the communications leader of the data governance program. These leaders are the central contact for the current status of governance practices across the organization. Team leaders and data owners can give regular updates to the executive. The executive team member then brings the most important updates to the rest of the leadership team and the organization as a whole.

6. Data governance is a practice—not a project

Creating a data governance program often feels like tackling a new project. You might be tempted to assemble a team to take on the project while the rest of the organization waits for it to be done. This is where many businesses see their data governance strategies slow down.

A data governance strategy isn’t a one-time project. There is no set end date or conclusion. Instead, it’s an ongoing practice that’s introduced as a regular policy. Much like dress codes or policies for requesting time off, data governance becomes part of everyday life at your organization.

Ready to put data governance practices to work?

A data governance framework helps your business work more efficiently, but you’ll need to build a business case for stakeholders before you get started. Find out how to get the green light for your data governance strategy through our free whitepaper on implementing a data governance practice.