Data Governance in Silos? Bad Idea

Loraine Lawson

It seems like every time I read a survey about data governance, the picture gets more confusing. I think it's because these surveys tend to merge data quality questions with data governance questions. The good news: Surveys show there's more awareness of and focus on data quality issues.


The bad news, at least to my thinking, is there doesn't seem to be strong evidence that the same is true for data governance and at some point, that's bound to create problems for enterprise-wide information management.


For instance, a Kalido survey of 257 large companies unveiled in November showed business leaders were becoming more aware of data governance as being key to business intelligence, data quality and data warehousing. Kalido founder Andy Hayler, writing for the UK-based CIO website, noted:

Curiously, only around half had developed a proper business case for data governance, but an encouraging 80 percent claimed to be measuring data quality, which is an improvement on previous surveys. The responses showed an encouraging degree of business involvement, with 79 percent of initiatives either led by the business or jointly by business and IT.

A more recent survey-also focused on data governance, but conducted by CBR with DataFlux-of 302 senior IT decision-makers similarly cheered:

Just under 80 percent of those we spoke to said they believe senior management does understand the impact of poor data quality on an enterprise, with about 15 percent claiming they don't and the rest being none too sure.

Obviously, it's good news that business leaders are concerned about data quality, but it's not really the same as embracing data governance, is it? I think that's why the picture becomes confusing when you drill down into the governance-specific issues. As an example, check out some of the other CBR findings:


  • IT tends to be responsible for data governance across the organization, with just over 40 percent of respondents falling into this category. The good news: The survey does show more involvement by the business than in the past. Just under 30 percent of those surveyed claimed that each individual department within the organization was responsible for its own data-governance initiative. While it's good that they're doing governance, ultimately if you want to break down information silos, doesn't governance have to span the whole organization? Is it really a good idea to approach data governance in what are essentially silos?
  • Fewer than 10 percent said their organization had a dedicated team of data stewards or a data-quality center of excellence. Again, you have to wonder-if there's no one dedicated to a unified view of information, how will data governance pay off in the long run?
  • When it comes to formal data governance strategies, 45 percent said they had one-which CBR noted was surprising. Not surprising: It tends to be driven by compliance and legislation, followed by risk management. So, the end result is still largely focused on CYA data governance-not a bad thing, necessarily, but a limited view, nonetheless.


And guess which department tends to fund these initiatives? Nearly 40 percent are funded out of IT. Some good news: Just over 30 percent are funded by individual business units, although, again, I have to wonder how effective a siloed approach to data governance will be.


What's the hold-up on data governance? The survey shows four reasons ran pretty close to even:


  1. It's too complex.
  2. Senior management doesn't see it as important.
  3. The individual business units won't buy into it.
  4. There's a general lack of resources, such as staff and time.


There are some indicators that organizations could be starting to think in the right direction. For instance, when CBR asked whether "organizations have a clearly defined data policy, for example regarding adherence of data to business rules, enforcing authentication and access rights to data, compliance with laws and regulations or protection of data assets, just under 70 percent said they did. Around 30 percent said they didn't."


Also, while half of companies get that data management is a process, not a project, half don't, citing deduplication or data cleansing as their one-time effort at data management.


One data management trend that seems to help them shift their thinking, however, is master data management initiatives. The vast majority-75 percent-see MDM as an ongoing process. That's good news because it means more organizations are thinking more broadly about data and governance.

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Feb 4, 2011 5:06 AM Jake Freivald Jake Freivald  says:

The most surprising thing for me was this: "while half of companies get that data management is a process, not a project, half don't, citing deduplication or data cleansing as their one-time effort at data management."

Unless your data sets are almost completely static, you can expect them to get dirty. And while I would expect people who hadn't cleansed their data before to not realize how often they should cleanse it going forward, I'm a bit surprised to hear that they don't think they need any process for future cleansing.

Feb 11, 2011 3:09 AM Lindsey Niedzielski Lindsey Niedzielski  says:

Another great post Loraine. Operating in data management silos has been a hot topic lately.  We have bookmarked this post for our users ( Look forward to reading your work in the future.


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