Reasons Business Users Are Embracing Data Governance

Loraine Lawson
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How to Monetize Data in Five Steps

Let’s face it: For a long time, IT and legal compliance have been driving data governance. Even though the experts warned that businesses needed to own governance, that didn’t change the basic fact that many of the related tools — including master data management and data quality solutions — belonged to IT.

But a shift is happening, slowly but surely, that’s pushing data governance out of IT and into the hands of business users. One reason is that business users now see data as a key asset, according to “The Forrester Wave: Data Governance Tools, Q2 2014.”

“As organizations begin to exploit the value of data for strategy and operations, they recognize that data governance has to be about helping the business realize the value potential in data,” wrote Forrester analysts Henry Peyret and Michele Goetz. “As such, stakeholders in marketing, sales, customer service, and finance are becoming much more involved and accountable.”


To support this shift, stop trying to “govern data” and start engaging with people, advise Dan Meers and Michael Nicosia in a recent Information Management column. Meers manages K2 Solutions, a Virginia-based data consultancy, and Nicosia is the VP of strategy and data governance at TIAA-CREF, a national financial services organization.

The two say a common approach to data governance is the “golden clipboard,” which focuses on a checklist of policy directives. This approach encourages a minimalist “what must I do to avoid trouble” attitude instead of actually engaging business users in the process.

Instead, they advocate a value-based approach that focuses on why and how business users benefit when the data is protected and improved. “Targeting real benefits can be as simple as understanding the challenges data participants have today,” they say.

Obviously this is a people problem, not a technology one, but it’s worth noting that vendors are evolving their tools to support this shift. Forrester reports:

Data governance tools to date have emphasized the automation and processing of data according to rules and standards. These techy data management tools have been off-putting and confusing to business stakeholders. … Data management vendors are on a ‘fast follow’ path of maturing data governance practices within organizations. Early efforts to support data governance through messaging, thought leadership, and consulting offerings are giving way to investments in profiling, reporting, workflow, and business-friendly user interfaces to enable the business to collaborate with technology management.

Even that last bastion of too-techy data lingo, metadata, now has a business meaning, writes Gary Allemann, who works with the South Africa-based company Master Data Management.

“Is there a difference between technical metadata (data flows, data models, data quality attributes, etc) and business metadata – such as data policies, business glossaries, and the like?” Allemann asks.

The answer must be yes, because he continues: “The next time you are discussing metadata make sure that the entire room is working with the same definition. Otherwise you may just be adding to the confusion.”

The Forrester data governance report is available for free downloading from several vendors. I found mine via Allemann, who links to Collibra’s copy.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.



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