What is the role of data governance?

Posted by Justin Hesser on September 12, 2013

This blog has recently spent a considerable amount of time covering data governance, its relationship with big data and its impact on information quality. And while we are learning more about it all the time, we are still working to establish a true definition and the official role of those tasked with data governance. 

An article in the online publication Information Management attempts this by declaring data governance as the act of serving and protecting the organization. This makes sense to some extent. Data governance helps identify risk that can have severe consequences for the company and it also processes information in a way that best serves the business. For example, data governance can identify quality metrics to help with the sales and marketing teams.

This sounds simple, but as Michele Goetz, the article's author, points out, there's a bit more to it than that. For instance, one policy doesn't fit all when it comes to managing information. And, in many cases, data governance may only really mean to protect, because service is actually redundant.

Essentially, if there's a data governance plan in place that corrects mistakes and weeds out inappropriate information, there shouldn't be a need to spoon-feed certain individuals or departments with the information they need. Instead, a well orchestrated data governance plan will create an environment where users can extract information as needed. They will be trusted to use appropriate data because it is organized due to governance. 

"In the grand scheme of things for the enterprise, especially as a chief data officer, the responsibility is to executives," Goetz writes. "They need to trust the data. The controls and processes at an enterprise level are tailored to their needs and expectations of information. Yet, in the world of big data, empowerment of the business to outsource IT, the number of increasingly tech savvy business people, and the ability to serve creates a more faceted data strategy — in turn a multi-faceted need for data governance."

This actually puts a heavier burden of responsibility on data governance. Giving users the flexibility to extract information for individual needs can add new layers of operational efficiency, but any issues pertaining to poorly governed data could result in major consequences. Creating a custom database software system to manage information can help companies govern their data and improve the overall quality of decision making.