What is Data Governance? Data practices that address risk and drive opportunities

I don't like the term 'data governance'. People - and especially leaders don't know what it means and often put up mental walls whenever they hear the word 'governance'. Governance is bureaucratic. It slows organizations down and creates tension. Why would anyone want to back a governance initiative especially one tied to data?

But anyone leading data efforts knows data governance is a long term investment that's critical to organizational success. It not only addresses risk but is a platform to drive alignment and new capabilities.


So it might be better to explain and sell data governance by the sum of its parts rather than as a multi faceted program.

Data Governance addresses risk and opportunity


I use this diagram to explain data governance in the StarCIO Driving Digital workshop on Becoming a Data Driven Organization. Blue icons represent the organizational responsibilities, policies, documentation, and tools that enable people in the organization to understand data assets and policies and then leverage data to strategic advantage. The green icons represent hybrid business, data, and technical practices that drive sourcing and managing data that can be used for analytics, APIs, applications, and other business opportunities.

Data governance programs don't need to be organized or branded with this term. Instead, leaders should look to prioritize the practices where there are either the greatest gaps or opportunities. For example, to comply with GDPR organizations need to consider policies, data security and data operations. If a new product is being developed, the development team should consider data sourcing strategies, data quality, and data definitions.

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