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Does Good Data Governance Matter?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It is said that you can’t manage what you don’t name, and you can’t effectively manage what you don’t define explicitly. In other words, you need accountability and documentation at all levels of an organization. When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.

That’s where ‘data governance’ comes in.

Data governance is what provides a structure to evaluate, control, manage, and protect data in an organization, by defining roles and responsibilities, and assists in the decision making process.

There should be a responsible, central party that leads the process in establishing the rules, enforces those rules at all levels of the organization, and owns the process to adjust the rules as needed.

Taking the time to establish good data governance can be grueling, but is ultimately well worth it. The issue often occurs when executives lack commitment to the process. One of the most common, and biggest excuses made for a lack of data governance is having little or no time to get it done.

Execs make comments like, “we are too busy running our business, to spend time in meetings about data.”  However, the reality is that the additional time, stress, and expense associated with poor governance on a recurring basis, is exponentially more than the one time effort that it would take to get you to a better place.

It may sound overwhelming, but there are several advantages in implementing good data governance:

  •   It can help you detect and prevent significant negative events, which have reputational and financial costs.

-Cases of embezzlement, theft, and non-compliance can be traced to a lack of knowledge or understanding of what is actually happening in the business.


  •   It makes it easier to manage changes in systems and/or operations.

-Sometimes, the most difficult part of system/software changes is cleansing and organizing the data for the new system, and a lot of time is spent in organizing the data for the new system. Good data governance makes this a cinch. You may realize that you need to change the way you operate, but you realize that you don’t really KNOW how you operate!


  •   It allows for easier personnel changes and training.

-Several organizations are held hostage, or are paralyzed because a few people hold the knowledge/data, and in turn become indispensable. But, what happens when those resources leave, or do something undesirable?

-It reduces burnout, and allows for quicker on boarding of new employees. The process becomes infinitely easier, as those employees have a basic manual to work from, and in turn, can quickly consume reports and other information without having to spend too much time on having someone explain it to them.


 Now that you know why data governance makes a difference, how can you successfully put it into practice?  

  • Reduce the task load of those who directly report to you, by allowing them to get the job done.
  •   Provide the budgets needed to make that possible. Factor in providing breakfast and lunch for those tough, but necessary all-day sessions required.
  • Make adoption of the agreed changes part of the evaluation process for EVERYONE in the organization, including the executives.

You can’t have good business intelligence without good data governance. Many organizations want to jump on the business intelligence and big data bandwagon, but are unwilling to practice good data governance. Keep in mind that business intelligence is a tool, while data governance is a skill. You need the skills, in order to use the tools.

One of my favorite business intelligence tools is DOMO. I’ve found that the clients that I work with who have the most success, are the ones who have good governance, or are willing to put in the work required to establish good governance, as part of the DOMO implementation.

Remember, above all, your business intelligence is only as good as your governance. As the old (data) adage says ‘Garbage in, garbage out!’  


Judesther Marc

Written by Judesther Marc

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