Data matters. I’ve heard it said recently, “In God we trust. All others must provide data.” No one questions the value of data. So it is no surprise that the governance of data is an important topic. However, at first glance, data governance might not be exciting or sexy. It may seem like it doesn’t really transform our business, increase our agility or better align to customer demands. Well, I beg to differ. I argue that providing for data governance is a great means to enable digital transformation – and what could be alluring than ‘digital transformation’?
Governance is a broad topic that can infer complexities like records management, retention policies, preservation, access to information, etc. I prefer a far simpler application of data governance. That of ‘can you protect, find and make use of the data you manage?’ Even more simply put: Can you manage your data? Is the data protected and retained? Do we know where it is located? What it contains? Who created it? Who has seen it? What has access to it? Can you dispose of the data should we need to? These questions can go on and on. I maintain that governed data allows for these questions (and more) to be answered. What’s more, governance is often associated with particular industries such as health care and financial services. With the broadening of the definition of governance above, it is appropriate to apply it across industries. Perhaps it should be thought of as a practice of modern IT… But I digress.
While ‘governing’ data may seem fairly straightforward for data in a database, what about the rest? What about the great ‘unwashed masses’ that is unstructured data? This is file data, user data, sensor data, ‘thing’ data. Data like images, pictures, video files and even log files are typically unstructured. Also, data doesn’t just reside in our data centers. It can be remote data or even mobile device data. As you can imagine, providing for this has complexities. The key point to note is data governance begins by getting all data under management.
Once we have governance of our data, we are ready to make it valuable to the business. With governance we know where the data is, where it came from, what it contains. At one level, we can search the data. We can know every word it contains. We can produce the data should it be needed for any purpose. Examples of this abound in nearly all walks of life. Looking for a missing email? Need to know if a patient is allergic to a medication? Want to understand if people are manipulating LIBOR? I can assure you simply finding the data that leads to these answers leads to value – for someone!
Many clients are evolving their data governance programs as they come to understand how crucial prudent controls are for their organizations. But don’t let governance end there. Take advantage of the fact that governance is about getting data under management or under control. When we control data, it can be known. When it is known it can provide value to our business. And turning data into value is at the heart of enabling digital transformation.