by Tyler Warden, BackOffice Associates
Starting with its origins in master data management, data governance has traditionally focused on identifying the data elements that are key to an organization's business and then investing time and money to ensure those data records and elements are correct. Terms like "golden record" and "one source of the truth" are common phrases shared when discussing the benefits of this type of approach.
However, a more holistic approach to data governance -- where the data elements managed need to move beyond the concept of a "record" or "data object" to encompass any data included in all enterprise systems -- is beginning to emerge.
A driving force behind this change is an ever-increasing footprint and reliance on business software over the past decade, as well as enterprises shifting to a post-modern ERP world. Companies today are working with expanding heterogeneous enterprise architectures as departments within organizations are looking to maximize their value by choosing the systems that work best for them.
In these cases, the number of systems and diversity of data in those systems is driving data governance beyond maintaining a small set of data to needing to set and enforce policies around all the data in those systems.
For example, take a CRM system with a field that corresponds to the status of a deal in the pipeline. While this field may not mean anything in a transactional sales order system, the rules and policies around that field are crucial to the business decisions made by the sales organization. A traditional data governance model is likely not the best fit to manage this type of cross-departmental usage data; hence there is a need for a broader approach in the market.
Beyond Data Governance: Holistic Information Governance
So what is next beyond traditional data governance? What is needed to maximize the business value of data for an organization? How can organizations manage data assets and ensure they are used to advance overall business strategies?
Information governance is the next step in answering these questions. Information governance can be described as the setting and enforcement of data policies and driving those data policies throughout the organization. It needs to evolve and react to business events such as moving systems to the cloud; capitalizing on cash reserves and cheap credit for expansions, mergers and acquisitions; and restructuring.
The data policies should tie to business value, ensuring that there is a direct line connecting the strategy set by an organization's leaders through the setting of data policies and into the enforcement of those policies at the individual levels of data. This connected path means that information governance needs to be able to cover all data in all systems for all users.
Getting Data Policies Right -- and Enforced
Maximizing the value of enterprise data means using different technologies to drive adoption and the proper cost-benefit models of implementation and delivery. For lower-impact data elements, the concept means monitoring the data lightly. Conversely, for mission-critical data it requires achieving complete governance over not only the data but also over the business processes used to create, maintain and evaluate that data.
Regardless of varying degrees of a data element's impact to the business, it means establishing a central, consumable place where all data policies can be set and tied to the enforcement technologies, providing a single location that captures and maps the DNA of the business to the data of the business.
Having this repository of rules, terms, standards and decisions about data can be a great asset to any organization. However, unless those data policies are enforced the potential impact of those policies cannot be realized.
In the United States, Congress can pass all of the laws they want, but without the executive branch to enforce those laws, then it is simply words on paper. Thus, the enforcement of data policies, commonly called stewardship, is just as important as the setting of policies in order to achieve next-generation information governance.
When working in the realities of business, in order for stewardship to be effective, it needs to be implemented with the smallest amount of implementation services possible using software automation and technology to connect technical users and business users. This approach automatically drives the right actions at the right time on the right data.
Traditional data governance looks at data to ensure that data is clean; certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but insufficient to maximize the business value of that data. Next-generation information governance takes it a step further by looking at data to ensure that the overall business is improving its operations and meeting its overall business goals.
There is power in data, there is value in data, and there is truth in data. Information governance holds the key to unlock the potential of all three.
Tyler Warden is vice president of Solution Management, BackOffice Associates, a worldwide leader in information governance and data migration solutions, focusing on helping customers manage one of their most critical assets - data.