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Data governance often is treated as a tactical process -- another data management function for the IT team to take the lead on. For example, Forrester Research Inc. analyst Michele Goetz wrote in a June 2014 blog post that less than 15% of organizations surveyed by the consulting company had business-led data governance programs tied to strategic corporate initiatives and objectives.
But she added that as companies try to become more data-driven, they need to think more strategically about governing the data they're looking to be driven by. And implementing an effective data governance plan isn't just a matter of deploying some software tools, Goetz wrote -- in many cases, it "requires a rethink of your operating model," with new roles, responsibilities and processes. That isn't an easy trick to pull off: In another blog post last October, she noted that getting business units involved can be a big stumbling block on efforts to create an enterprise data governance framework. A lack of committed business-side resources is a common "data governance killer," according to Goetz.
Good governance can be even more challenging -- and more crucial -- when big data is part of the picture. Big data analytics applications typically bring in new forms of unstructured and semi-structured data, and many have sprung up in a piecemeal fashion that makes it difficult to take full advantage of all the information flowing into corporate systems without the help of a strong governing hand. In a survey conducted by Capgemini Consulting in November 2014, three of the top five big data implementation challenges cited by the 226 respondents were governance-related: siloed data, a lack of coordination between different groups and ineffective governance frameworks.
SearchDataManagement and companion site SearchBusinessAnalytics have published a variety of recent content that shines a light on evolving data governance needs and offers advice on how to meet them. In one article, Wayne Eckerson of consultancy Eckerson Group provides tips on establishing corporate data standards to help pull an organization together. In another, David Loshin, president of Knowledge Integrity Inc., details the governance role chief data officers should play in companies. And in a Q&A, Anne Marie Smith, principal consultant at Alabama Yankee Systems LLC, assesses the challenges of big data governance and discusses ways to start overcoming them.
Smith expands on that topic with a checklist of seven best practices for governing big data, and she gives guidance on how governance managers and data stewards can implement a data governance policy without being viewed as the data police inside an organization. Continuing with that theme, we also look at strategies and tactics for fostering collaborative approaches to governing business intelligence data, based on input from speakers at the 2015 TDWI Executive Summit in Las Vegas.
If you're involved in designing and rolling out a data governance plan, don't let your organization take a wrong turn and end up stranded in the data desert. Business executives and other end users might not be gung-ho upfront about playing a big role in the governance process -- but data inconsistencies and other problems that prevent them from doing their jobs effectively will surely get their attention.
Things to avoid: Consultant Rick Sherman's list of data governance worst practices
Read a Q&A on the data governance program at student loan company Sallie Mae
Get tips on developing and managing effective data stewardship processes