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What is Data Governance?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Most businesses must manage data on customers, products, and sales. This data is maintained within databases or spreadsheets. Data governance is the formal process of managing data assets for a company. This governance system is responsible for managing the access to and changes of the company's data.

A data governance board is typically responsible for managing access to a company's data. This security process ensures data is only available to people who need it. With this process, data is less likely to be inadvertently lost or misused. This helps a business keep proprietary information private, which is critical for competitive advantage.

Many large companies struggle with how to create a data governance system. This is because each business unit within the company has specific needs and requirements. The best method of establishing a formal governance board is assigning subject matter experts (SME) from each business unit to the board. Each SME is responsible for ensuring his business unit is represented.

The data governance board members are responsible for determining how new business processes will be implemented. These processes typically include the creation of new data elements, databases, and access controls. When a company needs a new business process, it will propose these changes to the governance group. This group will review the proposal and determine the best method for implementing the changes without impacting existing systems.

Data retention polices are another aspect of data governance. This is the formal corporate policy on the retention and disposal of data. Most data governance boards include SME representatives from privacy and legal departments to assist with these formal policy decisions. These individuals will help to determine how long a company should retain records.

Most governance boards create the procedures for how data should be collected. This typically helps a company improve overall data quality. By ensuring standards are followed throughout the organization, companies are more likely to have quality data sets that provide valuable insight to customers and business opportunities.

It is important to include all aspects of data within the data governance practices. This should include both structured and unstructured data elements. Most companies will spend a significant amount of time in the early phases of governance building taxonomies of meta-data. This is a detailed process that defines specific data elements by a company's business units. This information can later be used to determine future data needs.

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