Data governance ownership gives business a leg-up

Assigning ownership of a data governance program is critical to its success. Here’s a few tips to define data governance ownership in your organization.

Not so long ago IT teams would be solely responsible to own and run  data governance programs. IT would know who was authorized to view which data, when a particular data set needed to be archived, and what kind of data quality should be maintained. Nonetheless, there arose a situation when a business head or a senior executive would make an exceptionally ‘eccentric demand’ about types of reports to be generated from the IT team. Absence of real business initiative in the governance of data lead to deficient data governance processes.

However, this was the scenario before stringent business regulations came into force. With the entry of regulations such as SOX (Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), PCI DSS (PCI SSC Data Security Standards), among others, the ultimate ownership of the data governance program has shifted axis from the IT to business team.

Role of the CEO in data governance

Today, it’s critical that data is closely monitored by the business team or else it will run into the risk of basing its decisions on data that is not current, reliable, adequate, or relevant.

Ideally, a dependable method to assure success of a data governance drive would be to make the CEO the owner of the program. Consequently, the CEO should create a synergy by involving business managers and workers responsible for data. It’s indeed critical to ensure active participation and not just a passive buy in. Besides this, establishing a steering committee headed by the CEO is another good idea.

Moreover, by making the CEO the owner of a data governance program would ensure that the initiative is not viewed by users solely as an IT venture. The CEO, in fact, acts as the motivator to the users as they now perceive data governance as an important initiative.

The steering committee/ owner(s) should, essentially, ensure that the data governance program is in place, everyone knows about its existence and contributes to make it effective. Ideally, it is the CEO’s responsibility to have a regular reinforcement thus ensuring that the data governance remains the top priority. However, the CEO should be able to locate potential business units that are lacking in their governance practices and get them up to date in case if something goes wrong.

Involvement of business users

Essentially, one of the most affective ways to sustain success of a data governance program is to keep business users on tiptoes by conducting regular audits of the business units. As a result, in order to pass these surprise checks unit heads would have to maintain the data quality constantly.

In addition to this, introducing tactics of competition and rewards at this level could also be sneakily useful. It is essential that business heads have a feeling of responsibility for data. They should, in fact, in their own right own the data governance program in their respective unit(s). Data governance has to be specified as their ownership/ responsibility; it may be included as a KPI.

Contribution of IT in data governance

As a matter of fact, people from the data-entry level to the top managers will have to be trained once the data governance ownership is decided and the program begins. Consequently, IT needs to contribute to this effort by providing all the relevant data tools and support to back these initiatives. It has to ensure the data governance program meets the SLA laid down by the business unit.

Additionally, data quality tools can be of use in this effort. However, be careful when you make a choice. A lot of branded tools have features that your organization may not need. For instance, some of these tools may cater to the scripting differences in various countries. Conversely, if you do not have a global presence, you do not need to use these tools. As a result, investments in these tools may sink as only about 60-65% of the tool is actually of use.

Finally, being an owner of data governance program does not entail a monarchy; instead lead by example!


About the author:

Sanjay Raj has 22-plus years of experience in data warehousing and business intelligence (BI) consulting for insurance, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, aerospace, and communication industries. Currently serving as Practice Director for BI/DW at Syntel, he is responsible for developing, managing, and delivering Syntel’s BI/DW projects across industries and geographies.

(As told to Sharon D’Souza)

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