Companies are investing in big data more than ever, gathering data from as many sources as possible, and looking to advanced analytics platforms to make the most of those data. But unfortunately, many businesses are proceeding without a solid data governance plan—or with one that does them more harm than good. In fact, a 2017 Experian survey found that 51 percent of organizations believe their current data governance programs are ineffective.
So why are companies so behind on data governance, and what can be done to resolve the issue?
Why Data Governance Is So Important
Let’s start by reviewing why having a formally defined and executed data governance strategy is so important. Data governance refers to many different areas at once, covering the availability, usability, integrity, and security of your data. You’ll need to consider things like data stewardship, data quality, master data management (MDM), and use cases, and have both a designated individual or body to oversee their execution and a formalized document to detail how they’ll do it.
Without data governance in place, your organization becomes more vulnerable to several external and internal dangers, as Clarkston Consulting explains:
- Slowed adoption. Companies without data governance aren’t as agile as their competitors. They aren’t able to incorporate new tools or expand their capabilities as quickly, and when they do, there are more hiccups to deal with.
- Analytics inefficiencies. Data governance helps to ensure the quality and accessibility of your data. If you don’t have either of those, you won’t be able to analyze your data correctly or efficiently. That will stunt and corrupt the insights you could otherwise use to develop your organization.
- Limited innovation. Along similar lines, without a formal data governance strategy, you won’t be able to innovate as quickly as your competitors, reducing the number of changes you can introduce to your company.
- Reduced flexibility. Data governance, despite being a formal creation, ultimately makes your business more flexible by giving you more options and clearer directives related to data. Without it, your business could become stagnant.
Why Companies Fail to Invest
If data governance is so important, why are so many companies failing to invest the time and money necessary to build and maintain a proper data governance strategy?
- Shiny objects. Part of the problem is the abundance of “shiny objects” related to data. With so many new platforms and new capabilities available, companies are funneling their money into new toys, rather than the infrastructure that can make those platforms work more efficiently.
- Lack of internal direction. Data governance jobs are in high demand, in part because there aren’t many people to take on the role who have experience in the field. If your company doesn’t have a strong voice pushing for adoption and maintenance of data governance, it isn’t going to get done.
- Bad systems. You might also be the victim of a poorly designed pre-existing system. People tend to continue working with whatever strategies and systems are comfortable, so if you’re working with an obsolete or poorly thought-out program, it may be difficult to build something new.
- Poorly trained employees. Data governance requires a team of well-trained employees creating, executing, and managing your systems. If they aren’t in place, even the best hypothetical strategy is going to fall flat.
If you want to reduce your risk, improve your flexibility, and give your company the best competitive advantage for the future, you need to adopt a better data governance strategy. The first steps are always the hardest, since you’ll be fighting against the status quo, but the sooner you have a strategy in place, the better. Work with a seasoned expert in the field to detail your plan of attack, then focus on hiring or promoting an in-house leader to oversee your teambuilding and execution in the future. From there, your system can grow organically.