It’s Time to Get a Handle on Data Governance

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    Capitalizing on Big Data: Analytics with a Purpose

    No matter how adept the enterprise becomes at self-service provisioning and dynamic cloud operations, there will always be a push-pull relationship with users over digital autonomy. Users, of course, will keep pushing for more while the enterprise will keep pulling for less.

    It all comes to a head around data governance. Who can access data? For what purposes? How is it to be shared? And who is responsible for maintaining security, availability and continuity? And if establishing these rules for people isn’t bad enough, organizations will soon have to build entirely new tiers of governance for machine-to-machine communications and intelligent computing.

    If the enterprise industry at large is anything like the financial services field, then we have a long way to go before governance becomes truly effective. According to Eagle Investment Services, only about a third of financial firms say they have a mature data governance strategy in place even though 80 percent see data as a strategic asset. What’s more, about 60 percent of firms without a cohesive governance program experience operation inefficiencies as a result and more than 15 percent say it has led to the loss of at least one client. Meanwhile, those who have implemented solid data governance report improved data accuracy, security and availability.

    Wanting something and building it are completely different things, however, particularly something as complex as data governance. BackOffice Associates’ W. Matthew Wagnon says that the establishment of a master data management (MDM) platform and a chief data officer are only the first steps in a lengthy and soul-searching process. To get it right, you first have to transcend the organizational domains that seek to control their own relevant data, and then establish working benchmarks to measure the success (or lack thereof) of emerging governance strategies. Even then, it is important to recognize that along with everything else in the enterprise, governance is not static but must be updated regularly according to changing operational and strategic objectives.

    A particularly thorny problem is recognizing when governance is not helping or is actually hurting the data process. Reuben Vandeventer, co-founder and CEO of Data Clairvoyance, says some of the key warning signs are when major investments in technology and staffing fail to produce appreciable results or when new roles are being created without a clear connection to the data they are supposed to manage. These stem largely from a lack of master data models and inventories, as well as standards and strategies that are loosely based on project needs rather than organizational requirements.

    Data Management

    But how, exactly, is the enterprise supposed to encourage creativity and risk-taking among knowledge workers without surrendering control of data and the rules surrounding data usage? A company called Trifacta says it has a solution in its latest software release by pairing governance with real-time productivity, connectivity and “data operationalization.” The system features enterprise-grade governance, metadata support and lineage tracking to satisfy IT’s need to oversee data operations, but then provides a dynamic UI that allows users to manipulate data according to their needs and technical abilities. A key element is the Transformation Suggestion Card that allows users to define their own data frameworks, including the incorporation of outside data sources such as AWS, S3 and Hive.

    Probably the chief reason so many organizations are struggling with data governance is the sheer scope of the project. Not only does it affect infrastructure and architecture, but also divisional politics, business models and even individual user preferences. Few people truly embrace change, and even when it is forced upon them there is a strong tendency to subvert it for personal goals.

    To achieve a truly functional governance regime, the enterprise will have to walk a fine line between long-term strategies and short-term thinking and among the needs of the individual or business unit and the organization as a whole.

    Of all the changes that are taking place in the emerging cloud/mobile/Big Data era, governance is likely to be the most challenging.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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