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Data Governance – The Solution You Didn’t Know You Needed

Organizations are now collecting more data from a broader array of sources than ever before, but data issues cost the average organization $9.7 million per year, according to Gartner.

The opportunity for companies to leverage an increased volume of data for impactful business intelligence and improved business performance is nearly limitless. Unfortunately, the potential for the same data to cause inefficiencies and undue costs to your organization is a more common problem since many companies lack an overarching data strategy aligned to their business objectives.

It may be hard for a data governance initiative to compete for prioritization in a time when artificial intelligence, machine learning, or the internet of things are dominating strategy discussions but it’s exactly because of those innovations that data governance is more critical than ever. The risks of not adopting a clear data governance program won’t just create day-to-day headaches (rework, uncertainty, manual processes, etc.), there are long-term financial and strategic implications to poor data management.

Companies can find it difficult to connect some of the more frustrating inefficiencies in their business with the lack of appropriate data governance practices. But, if you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s worth considering the impact your own data governance practices may be having on your business.

Some of these inefficiencies could include:

  • Slow or delayed introduction of new capabilities and tools
    Without an institutional consensus of the ownership, use, and understanding of data objects, the implementation of new technologies (from enterprise-wide to single user) inherently carry more risk for delayed implementation timelines and underperforming expectations. How many tool or capability changes took longer than expected for your organization? Was data the challenge?
  • Inhibited ability to perform deeper analysis of business
    Insufficient data confidence as a result of limited data governance means time and resources are allocated to validating analysis that should be performed automatically or with little to no effort. Stronger data governance frees up time to perform more impactful analyses for more effective business planning. Are your people fixing and manually manipulating data or spending time trying to understand what it’s saying?
  • Impeded innovation capabilities
    Innovation is born at the intersection of data and insight. Companies are using data and analytics capabilities to innovate to drive new revenue streams and increased market share. These capabilities are presupposed on the foundation of strong data governance practices – without them, you’re relegated to “business as usual.” Are you leading or lagging the market with your use and view of data?
  • Limited overall execution of strategy
    With the burden of rework and a lack of confidence in your data, poor data governance inhibits your organizational flexibility.  Your ability to execute growth and cost savings initiatives is limited by a lack of clear data strategy aligned with corporate goals and indicators. If there is no clear reason evident, poor data governance is likely to be at the root of your issue. Does your company keep falling short of the competition when new opportunities arise in the ever-evolving business landscape?

Challenges in maintaining data governance run the gamut – the wrong system, poorly trained employees, heavy dependency on a small set of long-tenured individuals with historical knowledge, overly burdensome or outdated processes – we’ve seen them all. But more times than not, data governance isn’t initially the reason companies realize they need help. It’s often the symptoms of poor data governance they’re feeling – complex efforts to generate seemingly straightforward reports, hours of rework, and a general lack of confidence in their data.

These symptoms bely greater issues within your business. As we move forward into a business environment where your success depends on your ability to confidently, quickly, and efficiently leverage your data for a myriad of purposes, it’s more critical than ever that you establish a system for data governance. It’s more than just having the right technology – data governance depends on a symbiotic relationship across business strategy, technology systems, processes, and user training to ensure sustainable success.

It is easy to identify that a problem exists, but identifying the root cause can be elusive. You may try a variety of changes and fixes but no significant improvements are visible. If this issue is familiar to you, consider whether your issue is in fact related to data governance.

How to know whether you have a data governance issue?  If you can’t answer these questions, you probably do:

  • Does our Finance department list difficulty getting the information they want or need as a top issue?
  • Can you find out how data is managed throughout the organization?  Is it clear how data is managed? Who owns it? Who is responsible?
  • Do you have two or three employees who are the only ones who know how to set up a new customer?  Is all the information about the right way to manage data in a few people’s hands?
  • Do you know where to find your data documentation? Where are your policies and procedures around data management stored?

Contributions by: Kelsey Sharp, Tim Plummer, and Kyle McDonald

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