Data Governance: Why It’s Fundamental and How to Implement an Effective Strategy

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Knowing where data can be found, who has access to it, and how data is being used is fundamental when establishing effective data governance procedures.

Data governance has emerged as a critical priority for organizations across a variety of sectors. And for a good reason: over the past decade, the proliferation of data has created infinite business opportunities; however, data has no intrinsic value in and of itself. In other words, there’s no point in gathering data just for data’s sake. Data is only valuable to a business when it’s mined for insights, and organizations can’t derive insights from their data without effectively governing it, i.e., knowing where it resides and being able to access it at all times easily. 

Legal and Security Implications Drive Yet Also Complicate Data Governance Efforts

Realistically, managing, and taking action on large volumes of data isn’t easy, especially considering data volumes are expanding every minute of every day. Complicating data governance matters further; organizations also have to consider the legal implications of their data. For instance, by requiring organizations to know where exactly data can be found and obtain consent for the utilization and storage of all recognizable personal information, regulations like GDPR can pose a serious challenge for businesses that are already struggling with data governance.

See also: Data Agility Should Not Come at the Cost of Data Security

Security, too, serves as a crucial factor when it comes to comprehensive data governance. An organization that suspects it’s been a victim of insider sabotage or a remote cyberattack needs to be able to check multiple sets of data and correlate that data with network access logs to identify suspicious patterns, for example. Furthermore, if businesses don’t know how much data they have or where it’s stored, it’s nearly impossible to assess if any information has been accidentally exposed at any given time.

Considering the plethora of serious legal and security implications organizations currently face, it’s concerning that so many are struggling to fully understand the nature of their data — or even where their data is located. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Exasol that surveyed IT and business decision-makers across the UK and Germany, a staggering 82 percent of enterprises don’t know where all of their critical data resides. Clearly, regulations such as GDPR and even the looming California Consumer Privacy Act are creating obstacles for organizations and their data governance efforts, forcing many to rethink their larger data management strategies completely. At the same time, these regulations bring opportunities to get data act in order, and organizations should capitalize on them.

Well-Designed Centralized Databases Are Here to Help

Thankfully, when used correctly, centralized databases can help organizations with all kinds of data governance challenges, allowing IT teams to actually control data flows and empowering data analysts to correlate data — both structured and unstructured better. Since data silos are often spread across multiple departments in an organization and as such very difficult to locate, having the right tools to ingest datasets from a wide variety of applications and platforms —  without having to rip-and-replace or code complex custom middleware each time — is essential for any successful data governance strategy. 

Additionally, the right database can help an organization identify the kind of information they store, whether it’s personal information that falls under the jurisdiction of GDPR or other general data that doesn’t require consent. Lastly, leveraging a database that can monitor data sources, the lengths of archiving periods, as well as access and deletion requests are vital for staying compliant and efficient. Neither consumers nor businesses want to have to wait a week for a clerk to action a request, so optimal data warehouse performance levels are also important.

The Democratization of Data Requires Comprehensive Governance

Ever-growing volumes of data can be truly impactful. In addition to enabling the anticipation of customer needs and adherence to legal and security requirements, the sheer amount of data that exists today also creates an opportunity to democratize data. By getting the right data into the right people’s hands at the right time, organizations can empower their employees to make more informed decisions and, as a result, drive business value. 

That said, it’s imperative that policies are put into place that track who has permission to view what data, who they can share it with, and where that data originated from. After all, a well-designed data warehouse that easily extends into new data sources is an exceptionally powerful tool. Permission creep is a very real and dangerous concept, so knowing where data can be found, who has access to it, and how data is being used is fundamental when establishing effective data governance procedures.

Mathias Golombek

About Mathias Golombek

Mathias Golombek is the CTO at Exasol. He joined the company in 2004 as a software developer, led the database optimization team and became a member of the executive board in 2013. Exasol is Germany-based world leader in analytical database management providing high-performance, in-memory, MPP database specifically designed for in-memory analytics. Although he is primarily responsible for the Exasol technology, his most important role is to build a great environment, where smart people enjoy building such an exciting product. He is never satisfied with 90% solutions and loves the simplicity of products. His goal is to encourage responsibility and a company culture that people love to be a part of.

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