There’s no question that in a world of ‘Big Data’, data management is fast-becoming the key competitive differentiator in a growing number of industries. Why? Effective data management leads to better informed, data-driven decision-making at every level. In turn, this drives growth and helps businesses to increase their market share.
But effective data management doesn't just happen by itself. There are multiple factors to both consider and get right, in order to get the best business value from data. With a wealth of data being collected every day, it’s important that businesses use the right data for the right purposes, ensuring that it’s accurate, accessible, usable, and secure all at the same time. To be successful, that takes an overarching strategy, in the form of data governance.
In this blog post, we take a closer look at data governance, why your business will benefit from getting it right, and how the right data privacy solution will undoubtedly help your efforts.
What Is Data Governance?
Data governance is an organization’s strategy for handling data within internal systems. It’s a set of guiding principles enacted through business policies and processes for managing and controlling data throughout its lifecycle, from collection to retirement.
Informed by organizational best practices and data privacy regulations, the aim of data governance is to ensure quality, security, and the integrity of data carefully aligned to its accessibility and usability within the business.
Data governance is a set of internal standards which, when adhered to, can improve data quality, facilitate better business decision-making, and mitigate internal and external threats to data privacy. This includes determining the accountability, responsibility, and processes for keeping your data safe, compliant, and usable.
Data Management Vs Data Governance
In any type of organization, data management refers to the processes for how data is securely and compliantly collected, stored, and used. With data now a key driving force in value creation for both the business and its customers, effective data management is essential for delivering the best outcomes.
Whilst data management is concerned with the day-to-day logistics of processing, storing, and sharing data, data governance is the strategy behind it. In other words, data governance is the blueprint behind a business’s data management processes. In the digital world, these processes for data management predominantly involve a company’s IT systems and practices. Also known as ‘data management strategy’, data governance is best viewed as a business strategy, carried out through an organization’s data management processes.
If data management defines the tools for handling data, and how to use them, then data governance sets out the overarching business strategy, including what the data actually is, as well as how and where data is collected and used. Moreover, it has an organization-wide reach, covering all business areas and standardizing the ways in which data assets are handled.
Whilst it is strongly connected with IT and software, data governance ultimately defines key aspects of the data as well as who’s responsible for looking after it. That means effective data governance should provide consistency, clarity and transparency over things like common data definitions, data quality, data integrity and accuracy, and compliance with data privacy laws and regulations.
Why Businesses Need To Govern Data
Ever-expanding digitalization is continuously broadening the stream of data flooding into businesses. Most companies are data rich, but often need guidance on how to utilize it to get the best business value.
Without data governance in place across an entire organization, keeping data usable, accessible, and safe can quickly become a challenging task. A single, minor flaw in security could lead to a costly data breach, or compromise the integrity of the data, rendering it unusable, especially when it’s held in an unstructured format such as a Word document or even a common image file type such as a JPEG.
The reasons for a business to better govern their data are both numerous and compelling. Here are some of the most important ones:
- Compliance: As privacy laws around the world continue to tighten, it’s essential for businesses to ensure their compliance. Examples include the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and Californian Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
- Security: When it comes to sensitive data, the right security is essential to protect it from exposure or breach and the associated financial and reputational penalties.
- Management: As we’ve discussed, data governance informs company-wide data management. It determines things like ownership, access, and security.
- Quality: Effective data governance should set the agreed and acceptable level of data quality so that decision-makers are always informed by the most reliable data
- Standardization: Sharing common definitions of data make it easier to communicate and reliably share information across the company.
- Mapping: Knowing where data is held and its relationship with other data helps to drive day-to-day efficiencies, and streamline workflows without compromising on security.
The Advantages Of Data Governance
Many companies are beginning to see the potential of data governance to help them gain an advantage on their competitors. Rather than viewing data governance as a complicated and necessary evil for ensuring regulatory compliance, it’s fast-becoming a market differentiator, and here’s how:
- Accessibility: Keeping data locked up in separate business units means there’s no single source of truth. A simple example is a customer’s name and contact details, which might appear in an inconsistent format across the organization. At the same time, sensitive data needs different levels of accessibility. Data governance sets down these standards whilst ensuring there’s no unauthorized access.
- Usability: One of the biggest challenges for businesses is being able to use real data for things like product development and testing, without compromising data privacy and integrity. Data governance can determine what safeguards need to be in place in order to keep data usable whilst protecting it from misuse.
- Reliability: Unreliable data can have a detrimental impact on decision-making, with errors or inconsistencies creating a variety of organizational issues. Robust data governance should ultimately result in improved data quality, making it more reliable for use in data analytics, and business decision-making.
- Security: By defining policies and procedures for data management, data governance can help reduce data errors and prevent the misuse of sensitive data. It can achieve this by setting out procedures for policing data access and use.
- Cost: Investing in data governance unlocks the full potential of your data assets. By optimizing your processes for handling data, as well as determining its true value to your business, you can build confidence, trust, and future investment in your data.
How Data Masking Supports Data Governance
Implementing effective, organization-wide, data governance is a complicated and challenging task. So, using a complete data management solution can make the job of executing your strategies much easier.
Through agile and effective data masking solutions, ABMartin can help you maintain the integrity, and the look and feel of your documents, whilst keeping personal, and sensitive data, safe.
Whether you're seeking automated unstructured data masking solutions, consultation, training, or implementation, our team works collaboratively to understand your needs, helping you to derive better business value from your data.
See how data masking can support your data governance by booking a free demo.