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When experts write about starting out with data governance, the phrase “low-hanging fruit” tends to appear somewhere in the discussion. The underlying assumption is that leadership and staff won’t support data governance initiatives without some tangible assurance of success. This is despite the fact that data governance is really no longer optional for any organization.
At Orbit, we often talk about how data governance enables better self-service reporting and analytics. To quote this TDWI blog on data culture: “When business users have confidence in their data, they are more likely to use it for strategic initiatives and to improve operational efficiency.”
There are users working with data every day who understand this. A data scientist has to spend the greater part of his day cleaning and vetting data instead of exploring it. A human resources manager connects her ERP with a new data source but can’t report on the data because she has no insight into what the fields actually contain. Data governance is the solution to these kinds of frustrations and inefficiencies.
Business leaders know that for their data assets to deliver competitive advantage they have to be well organized and documented. And that data governance projects can’t be successful without their support. But to organizational leadership the ROI of resolving inefficiencies is not necessarily a compelling reason to undertake a data governance initiative. After all, c-suite executives likely see the final dashboard – not the sausage-making that went into creating it. They may not understand the amount of effort involved or feel that the work is part of the job. Or (in a worse-case scenario) they may simply lack a vision of what their employees could accomplish if they didn’t have to spend so much time processing data.
So to promote a data governance project may require going beyond timesaving and efficiency talking points and focusing on the other ways data governance delivers value to organizations. Three of the most important are risk mitigation, return on investment and competitive advantage.
Risk mitigation: Regulatory changes like GDPR or CCPA have been the clearest way for leadership to see the value of governance, since there are actual dollar amounts attached to penalties and set deadlines for complying. But data governance also reduces the likelihood of project failures due to poor data and may also reduce the risk of data security breaches.
Return on investment: There are several ways that a data governance delivers ROI. Some examples are by identifying and removing unnecessary data sources, simplifying data streams/processes, and reducing the time employees spend fixing data errors. Unfortunately, these are not necessarily quantifiable. Which leads to:
Competitive advantage: We are entering an era of digital transformation powered by technologies like cloud and AI. But if data quality and provenance are ignored, executive leadership won’t be able to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead. The fact that most organizations right now are behind in their data governance efforts doesn’t change the reality that ultimately there will be winners and losers in this arena.
Organizations everywhere rely on self-service reporting and analytics to help them take better advantage of their data assets.