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What exactly is data governance and what falls under this category?

I just attended one of your conference keynotes. In it, you said that "just because its data doesn't mean it falls under data governance." I think we may be guilty of throwing anything that has to do with information over to our data stewards. Can you explain what you meant?

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People use the term "data governance" for a range of problems and issues. The trouble with this is that it raises expectations to an unreasonable level.

It's clear that there are a lot of challenges in providing good, consistent data to the business. People misuse and misinterpret data. They don't measure data quality. They don't align data access with business policies. They don't make data available in a sustainable way. Plus, the lack of accountability and workflow tools renders data governance a paper exercise, where artifacts are generated and then forgotten on a shelf somewhere.

To use a somewhat well-worn but apt example, there's a Maslow's hierarchy of need here. First we need to understand what terminology and definitions are for enterprise data. Only then can we introduce data management, including the demarcation of the rules associated with the data and who's allowed to see it.

Data governance is really a framework for supporting new rules, definitions and policies and to support changes in those rules, definitions and policies. It's a series of SLAs for data. Taken that way, there are different components. You need to deconstruct, identify, and put processes around those components. This not only helps you know what to do, but what not to do.

This was first published in September 2009

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