Data governance, the candy store and the dentist

December 23, 2019

You stroll by the candy store and see all the sugary, colorful, and yummy indulgences! From the finest of chocolates, to the gummiest of worms, everyone loves candy! How many of you have a secret stash in your desk? It’s not until we visit the dentist, that the reality of all that candy comes to light… in the form of cavities and other health problems! “Two cavities! Lay off the candy a bit,” scolds the dentist, and then hands you floss, a toothbrush and paste and sends you home to do better. The candy store is how we all look at data. It is an exciting thought to just dive in and make something happen with data. But the data dentist, more commonly known as data governance, is standing by to help us fend off those data cavities. Data Governance is made up of people, processes, and the technology required to manage, protect, and qualify an organization’s data. Going to the dentist and data governance have a lot in common. Both can be inconvenient, painful, and embarrassing, but are necessary to make sure we come out with strong, clean teeth, err…data.

The inconvenient tooth

Having healthy teeth means making a lifelong commitment to dental discipline. The same is true for healthy, secure data. Yes, data governance can be inconvenient as it imposes rules, policies and regulations for the use of data within an organization and can be viewed as a hinderance to getting a project done. Data governance is intended to make an organization’s data more reliable, secure, private, and trustworthy. Governance comes in the form of safeguards and policies that protect data users from harming themselves and the organization. Like the dentist, data governance is an organization’s commitment to data discipline!

Worth the pain

A trip to the dentist can be painful. Who wants someone with a magnifying glass poking your mouth with sharp instruments? Let’s face it, the word “governance” is scary. It implies rules and regulations. Many people think of a data governance program as a congressional body sitting around arguing over what is best for you and your project. Sorry, but that is exactly what it is! Why have a governance program then? Data governance defines a set of guiding principles, definitions, and data profiles. They also perform data quality assessments, establish privacy and use requirements. The benefits of data governance can lower an organization’s costs, enable more stable use of data, and support overall organizational health. If the benefits don’t motivate you to floss, then the alternative increase in risk should.

Don’t be embarrassed

Going to the dentist can be embarrassing as it exposes our hygiene, flossing, and brushing habits. No one wants to be told to lay off the sweets! The same is true with data. You can tell a lot about an organization by the quality of its data. Most people don’t realize this, but data governance starts at the top. If the data within the business is not of the highest quality unhealthy data will trickle down and make its way to other systems, such as data lakes, data warehouses, and analytical applications. This exposure is embarrassing, expensive, and is indicative of poor data standards. Data governance is also paramount in the protection of data from leaks and theft. Nothing is more embarrassing and destructive to an organization than a public data leak.

Data governance doesn’t have to feel like a root canal

According to ERWIN a good data governance program is essential to keeping costs low while ensuring maximum data value. If data is important to your organization, you are going to have a data governance program. Some advice: If you work on a data governance team, avoid the “G” word. Brand it something other than “Governance.” Call it “Data Assurance” or something that doesn’t cause the same reaction as a root canal! Change the perception to something positive and help your organization understand the importance and value of the program. Be sure to educate your organization to the set standards, rules and processes, and then align with them in order to avoid any inconvenience, pain, and embarrassment. It takes a village, and when the entire organization is committed to strong data governance, the full potential of your data can be realized. So don’t be afraid of your “data dentist!”

About the Author
John Thuma, Data Solutions Group FIS
John ThumaData Solutions Group FIS

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