Tom Clark

Posted by:
Tom Clark
- Data & Analytics Practice Director, Sempre Analytics

Data Governance: The Superhero Cape Your Data Has Been Waiting For


Picture this: a bustling metropolis of data, constantly expanding and evolving, where every bit and byte holds the secrets to better business decisions. In the heart of this data-driven city, data intelligence and analytics are the unsung heroes, working tirelessly to illuminate the path forward. Data Governance is the Superhero, the guardian and protector of data’s integrity and value. 

What is Data Governance? 

Data Governance is the guardian of data’s integrity and value. It encompasses various components that underpin informed decision-making and intelligence. Unlike Data Quality (DQ), which is often perceived as primarily software-driven, data governance involves a holistic approach to an organisation’s data policies. It considers how software and tools align with and support these policies. 

It goes beyond the binary assessment of data correctness and delves into the realm of broader organisational considerations, such as legal and regulatory compliance.  

Data governance (DG) incorporates the entire lifecycle of data within an organisation. It involves tracking where data goes, who has access to it, and ensuring compliance even when data needs to be purged or forgotten (for example, in line with GDPR). However, it’s not solely about managing the data itself. Good data governance also establishes policies and procedures that foster a company culture nurturing and respecting sound data governance. Breaches like this can incur hefty fines.  Employee attitudes and behaviour towards DG are crucial to effective data governance. In essence data governance is the process of managing the quality, security, accessibility and usability of your data assets. 

So, what happens when data governance goes wrong? 

In February 2023, People Connect, the organisation behind the background check services TruthFinder and Checkmate, confirmed that it had suffered a data breach affecting 20 million people. The incident occurred after criminal hackers leaked a 2019 backup database containing personal information from customers.

“We have confirmed that the list was created several years ago and appears to include all customer accounts created between 2011 and 2019. The published list originated inside our company”, the organisation said in a statement (source). 

Breaches like this can incur hefty fines and deep organisational inquiries from regulatory organisations, and often these are likely to stay in the public eye, causing irreversible damage to reputation. So how do you change employee behaviour and foster a more data-literate culture? How can you ensure that all members of the organisation understand the data they interact with and its impact on the organisation’s strategic and reputational outcomes? 

As data professionals, our task is to leverage tools that support the organisational data governance framework. This integration becomes deeply embedded in our business processes.  

When contemplating governance, let’s take the example of customer onboarding. From a pure Data Quality (DQ) perspective, we assess the accuracy of customer information records. However, we must also consider the entire lifecycle of these contact records. This includes the systems they are integrated into, who has access, access levels, download permissions, and usability guidelines.  

To ensure your organisation’s compliance, you must establish a comprehensive data governance policy and appoint custodians to maintain it.  

The business case for applying data governance principles 

It is clear that a key benefit of good data governance is mitigating the risk, as demonstrated by the example given about what happens when governance goes wrong. The cost of enquiries, of fines and the cost to reputational damage, can spiral. The benefits that come from applying data governance are the business gains that come from having trust in and knowing how to use the company data. This can create a competent and professional culture that has the added benefit of increasing productivity. 

Good data governance is not just about avoiding fines. The benefits are numerous and applied correctly it can support supply chain optimisation, operational efficiency, improved data analysis, increased speed to market, reduce risks, and improve customer experience. 

To quantify the return on investment of implementing effective data governance frameworks, Informatica has modelled the estimated time saved by data consumers and applied an hourly rate. Estimates have also been placed on the value to the business of reduced exposure to data breaches.  

Whilst the figures will vary by organisation, in this large insurance provider with 11,500 employees, the medium-estimated value per year was in excess of 7 million USD. [1] 

If you’d like to know more you can watch the webinar on-demand here 

Alternatively, reach out to Sam Boulton on 020 3137 9944 to start an informal conversation and schedule a consultative discussion on how we can help address your data governance solution requirements. 

[1] White Paper | 5 Essential Business Value Metrics to Build a Robust Case for Cloud Data Governance 

About the author

With more than 25 years’ experience in technology solutions, Tom leads the Data & Analytics practice within Sempre. Tom has been with Sempre from the beginning and has worked across the full programme lifecycle to advise, scope, deliver, and manage, high-value programmes for our customers. He has a wide breadth of experience in all aspects of the data management lifecycle, including data solutions, strategy, governance, master data management and quality, having delivered transformational data solutions across multiple industry sectors.

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