Michael Queenan at Nephos Technologies explains how your data governance persona will influence your success or failure
The role and importance of data governance have grown in recent years as more organisations understand its potential to positively impact performance. While some remain focused squarely on governance in the context of data integrity and compliance, others see it as a powerful tool for improving decision-making and boosting the bottom line.
Whatever the requirement, it has the potential to deliver transformative benefits. In particular, organisations that harness the availability, management, integrity, security and use of their data benefit from greater levels of insight and intelligence.
The result is that investment in data governance technologies has taken off as leaders focus on unlocking the potential that exists in their datasets.
Building an effective approach to data governance is not, however, without its difficulties. Many organisations will be familiar with the frustration that comes from projects that over-run, tools that don’t offer the required control or insight, or indeed, investment that delivers little to no tangible return.
In fact, a recent Gartner report found that a quarter of those surveyed said they had achieved nothing they set out to accomplish with data.
On the flip side, when data governance is effectively implemented, organisations stand to benefit across a wide range of outcomes.
According to an analysis from McKinsey, “Data governance is one of the top three differences between firms that capture this value and firms that don’t. In addition, firms that have underinvested in governance have exposed their organizations to real regulatory risk, which can be costly.”
Their report continues: “Leading firms have eliminated millions of dollars in cost from their data ecosystems and enabled digital and analytics use cases worth millions or even billions of dollars.”
As a result, the motivation behind data governance investment can vary from a targeted effort to improve compliance standards to a ground-up strategy that aims to deliver holistic business impact.
And depending on these objectives, experience and available resources, each organisation will typically assume a persona that will have a direct impact on their success or failure. These include: the slow starter, the inexperienced enthusiast, and the frustrated investor.
The slow starter
“Slow Starter” organisations know they want to be doing more around data governance, but don’t know where to begin.
This group may be influenced by the need to announce their commitment to good governance or have decided to make it part of their competitive positioning. Others may prioritise it because of a management edict or due to regulatory pressure.
What these organisations often have in common is difficulty in moving beyond the decision to begin. Big questions go unanswered, such as who is responsible for design, implementation and delivery, who can they turn to for help, and crucially, what level of finance and resource commitment is required. The result is that data governance projects can fail before they have even started.
The inexperienced enthusiast
“Inexperienced Enthusiast” organisations have started down the road of data governance, and have perhaps even purchased one or two isolated tools. However, they are unable to operationalise their efforts due to skills or people shortage.
This is an increasingly common characteristic of organisations whose instinct is to take action by buying technology.
The problem is that many of today’s governance solutions are narrowly focused and can’t be integrated into a wider strategy or existing processes without specialist knowledge and experience. This is exacerbated by a general data governance skills shortage, largely due to the relative immaturity of the sector.
The frustrated investor
“Frustrated Investors” are those who have been through the cycle once. They have purchased tools but are unable to provide the business value outputs that leadership is asking for
These organisations have hit a serious ROI roadblock. Significant investment in data governance tools has ticked the box for issues such as data classification, but this investment cannot be translated into business benefits.
Organisational leaders – focused on tangible returns – want evidence that investments have been worthwhile. That proof is not available because the data governance strategy was not designed to deliver it.
In each case, objectives and results are not linked. The failure to link objectives and results puts organisations in a position where it is difficult to apply data governance as a way to improve business performance or deliver the required levels of regulatory compliance.
The emergence of Data Governance-as-a-Service (DGaaS) is bridging the gap between objectives and results, taking the risk away from investments and delivering the experience, skillsets and proven technologies required to ensure data governance projects succeed
DGaaS allows organisations to approach the planning, design and delivery of a data governance strategy focused more clearly on their key objectives. In particular, instead of defining and limiting their capabilities, technology becomes the enabler in a service-led approach to data governance.
DGaaS starts with ubiquitous data discovery and classification, which entails scanning all data, regardless of where it may be stored. Without this information, businesses are unable to identify their data assets, determine if they are misusing data, and, as a result, assess their level of risk.
Following that, the process focuses on effective process creation and documentation, allowing organisations to meet their governance objectives while eliminating operational and expertise overhead – allowing them to focus on data value generation. This allows raw outputs to be transformed into concrete business activities.
Using this approach, organisations can ensure whatever their experiences and organisational persona, data governance becomes part of the standard business toolkit that delivers a win-win of effective compliance and business innovation.
Michael Queenan is the co-founder and CEO of consultancy-led data services integrator, Nephos Technologies which provides expertise and value around data integrity and challenges organisations to think differently about one of their most valuable assets. As CEO, Queenan plans Nephos Technologies’ future strategy and direction, identifying trends 24-36 months ahead of time and building centres of excellence to deliver on those trends.
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