Data governance seems to have a bit of an image problem... Governance is dry term, it implies regulation, adherence, rules, restriction and construction. Those "not in know" might think it was a bit of a business prevention mechanism.. Although that would be far from the truth. In fact the converse is true.
Although the practice has been around a while its necessity was dramatically projected into the public limelight with, the now infamous, loss of 25 million taxpayer data by HMRC in 2007. This loss provoked a highlighted interest in data issues by the media that continues even now (as shown by the recent Leveson enquiry). Sadly though this higher press profile has been unremittingly negative when we know that data, used correctly and responsibly can do tremendous good, both for organisations and consumers. So what can we, as data professionals, do to turn data and its governance back into the positive?
We should first recognise that the term has different meanings to different individuals and organisations. We at DQM Group define it as including these disciplines;
So that's 5 simple to understand disciplines that any business should encourage, invest in and benefit from... So why do so many businesses find it hard to get senior but in and investment?
Perhaps it's all in the messaging - after all I might have written:
These 5 descriptions don't show the positive. It's not hard for us see that good data governance provides many benefits to the organisation, indeed in years to come it might make the difference between success and failure, but for many data (and it's complementary IT function) are dark and dull arts that only exist as a basic business mechanic - the strategic value is lost.
As data professionals we should always take the opportunity to shine a light on the benefits of our craft. No where does this become more apparent than when winning budget. Really understanding, quantifying and emphasising the benefits will always help with any business case - but sometimes data people might just have to try that bit harder to translate benefits into real business terms.
After all the original HMRC data loss was caused by the lack of willingness to spend 10k on depersonalising a large personalised analytical data feed. I'm pretty sure that if asked today HMRC would probably happily spend that to avoid the same issue. The benefit of good data security on public opinion has become brutally obvious. We now need to make the case for the other governance strands, regulation, insight, quality and strategy.