With the truly staggering amount of sensitive information traversing today’s digital environments, determining how to track and manage these massive volumes of corporate data is a project as important as it is difficult for the organizations tasked with accomplishing it.

Big data and digital transformation are no longer empty buzzwords. They are crucial concepts driving competitive organizations to innovate and modernize established data-processing practices, and they begin by relying on effective data-governance initiatives to provide a sturdy foundation for achieving positive business outcomes. The alternative is complacency—or worse, disarray resulting in faulty data and poor management practices.

The solution to these potential data woes is a prescriptive approach to data management known as data governance. With data governance, entities can organize their data and better understand how to handle it in order to extract its maximum value.

Here’s what you need to know about data governance to ensure your organization is properly managing its data.

What is Data Governance: A Definition

Because every organization is different, it can be difficult to define data governance. Data exists in many forms and facets, so it has a huge impact on a company, both in terms of the company’s operations and bottom line. Therefore, governing this data affects nearly every department and aspect of an organization.

Still, many organizations continue to struggle to properly define data governance. Data governance is the establishment of consistent rules, processes, and procedures to ensure an entity’s data is handled appropriately to maintain the quality and organization of that data.

In order to answer the question “what is data governance?” for your organization, it is essential to consider all of the individuals and entities that interact with your data. With these stakeholders in mind, you can begin to formulate a specific data governance definition that includes procedures and processes for identifying and properly handling the data that resides within your organization.

Once these guidelines are established, you will have created a data governance framework that will help your organization better manage its data.

Why is Data Governance Important?

The larger a company becomes, the greater the importance of implementing an effective data governance strategy. Data is an extremely valuable asset that provides utility and insight into nearly all business processes.

However, new analytics technologies such as machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence are only as good as the data they ingest. That’s why it’s so important to consistently track and appropriately handle this data—it maximizes its value, ensuring the data remains accurate and usable.

Without data governance, data within an organization can quickly become disorganized and ineffective. Again, the bigger a company is and the more data it possesses, the more essential it is for it to utilize data governance.

Conscientious data governance practices are also crucial for effective compliance and security. If you don’t know which types of data you possess, where it enters your environment, and where it is stored, you cannot adequately protect it.

Because the answers to those questions likely will differ from company to company, no one-size-fits-all approach exists. Instead, organizations must consider the unique requirements of each data type and the needs of those individuals and departments who wish to use it.

Whether the data is processed for marketing, sales, or operations purposes, it needs to be managed in a way that satisfies each group’s goals while still meeting the security and compliance obligations surrounding each data type. This can be done by embracing a data-centric strategy that considers relevant business needs along with security and compliance risk, a topic we will cover more later.

What are the Benefits of Data Governance?

Data governance can provide valuable insight into how your organization processes, stores, and transmits data. By evaluating how data is handled and used, you can begin to outline best practices and implement the processes and procedures necessary for optimal data stewardship.

The benefits of this type of evaluation include reduced overhead via more efficient use of resources, reduced risk via more effective compliance and security measures, improved transparency of data collection and -processing practices, increased scalability, and enhanced data quality.

Put simply, better data means better analytics, which inform better decisions. Better decisions can lead to greater efficiency and increased effectiveness, which can in turn drive reduced cost and—most importantly—improved profit margins. This is the ultimate impact of data governance. It has the potential to affect almost every area of a business.

Another business benefit of data governance is the improved compliance and security measures it can help introduce. By using data governance to identify sensitive data, locate where it resides within your organization’s internal systems, and track it as it travels through your data environment, you can more confidently secure the entirety of that data.

Once the data is secured in line with your organization’s definition of acceptable risk, you can simultaneously satisfy many compliance requirements—assuming your security measures are deemed sufficient by relevant regulatory obligations. As a result, deploying a data-centric approach to security, one driven by a successful data governance program, can streamline the compliance process.

What are the Issues With Data Governance?

The difficulty of implementing a successful, effective data governance program results from the tremendous amount of data in your organization’s business systems and the complications that come with attempting to manage it.

The scope of these projects can quickly become overwhelming, and it can be a tall order to work efficiently with all of the departments involved in the data governance process.

But once an effective plan is created and resources are assigned to execute its tasks, you can begin to work toward implementing data governance into your organization.

This is where a data governance program comes in.

What is a Data Governance Program?

A data governance program is the synthesis of all data governance initiatives to create a cohesive, actionable plan. This allows you to maintain consistency and control over your data.

An effective data governance program results from building a thorough data governance strategy and executing it within a well-established data governance framework to maximize data quality and utility while minimizing compliance scope and security risks. It should include all of the previously mentioned considerations and define clear goals for what it wishes to accomplish.

Why You Need Data Governance

Maximizing the value of your data and streamlining the processes for managing it have become a business necessity in the modern digital landscape. Low-quality data cannot be trusted or relied on to inform crucial business decisions, especially if that data is not being processed, stored, or transmitted in a secure and compliant fashion.

In terms of security and compliance, data governance can be a great first step toward reducing your organization’s risk and scope.

By locating sensitive data and isolating it from the rest of your internal business systems, you can limit the impact of an audit or assessment on your data environment, and by using a data security technology such as tokenization to secure and desensitize that data, you can further reduce compliance scope via effectively removing sensitive data from your environment.

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