You can’t really run your business if you don’t know what you own and where those assets are. There might be stock in the any of your warehouses or stores. What you have purchased and sold are even recorded for the investors in the balance sheet.
But what about your data assets? All the fuss about digitalization and data being so important for your business but can you hand-over-heart tell where your digital assets are. Or even what they are?
One could argue that since the day-to-day business is ongoing, the situation is pretty much okay. And yes, everyday practicalities are running. But that is not the point. If you want to drive value from your data, shouldn’t it be evident that you should know what data do you have, and where does it lie? The more information systems you have in place the more data you generate. If you want to build your data-driven initiatives, do you know where to start?
Data governance - whose responsibility is that?
The topic at hand is really not IT Department’s worry. It is first and foremost a business topic. (Yes, the terminology about Data Governance sounds kinda IT. But please bear with me.) The IT department doesn’t maintain the data facilities do it for themselves. They work very hard to serve the business. And the data is being generated by the business.
What Data Governance is about is making it transparent to everybody involved what data assets are available and how do they relate to actual business. The more complex the business environment, the more fine-grained the question becomes.
One way of scratching the surface of the matter is to gather specialists from different divisions for one task: “Define what is Customer”. I would hazard a guess that not everyone in the room has 100% compatible view on what does the term entail. Sales might stress that identifying decision-makers of the customer. Financial services could be focusing on customer account receivable. And marketing might stress demographics and other aspects of customer segmentation. All actors look at the Customer from different perspectives. As they should. The task at hand is to form the bigger picture from those different views.
Now that you know is meant by “Customer”, you can start looking into where the customer data exists. Someone needs to send invoices, someone else follow-up on deliveries. And so on. There are sources and repositories where all the data lies. Why not make it transparent? Why not share that insight on how you see what “Customer” means and where are the data stored that is managed day in day out.
A journey towards disciplined data governance
And before you know, you have started the journey to build your Data Governance. There’s no magic or rocket science to it. But there are tools for it. One approach is to start building the data inventory using Data Catalogs. There are basically two steps in the process to get build the foundations (after that comes the fancy stuff).
The first one is always the controversial one and the most difficult one: Define Your Data Domains. Basically you should look into what are those domains. “Customer”, “Organisation”, “Product”, “Personnel” etc. The controversy might arise from the opinions flying around for this exercise being futile, because “everybody knows what is a Product”. I guarantee you that not all of you share the same view. And even if you did, why not write down for the people entering the company. It would help them, right?
The second step becomes much easier when the first step has been taken. And that is to Define Your Data Assets. Where is the data stored concerning your Personnel? (You should really know that by know, if the term GDPR rings a bell.)
This is the step, in which the available tools come in handy. Data Catalog software and solutions help you in doing that. The tools can scan your data sources for you, in Cloud or OnPrem. They can help you match the data in different sources. And if you have built your Data Domain definitions into a business glossary into the data catalog, you start getting the value of that exercise.
And the next time you get a request from someone to see what data is stored about them, you can open up the Data Catalog and immediately see in what systems is what data maintained.
And it is not just about avoiding GDPR penalties. There are other upsides as well. And that is the topic we’ll return to the next time.
If you have any questions regarding data governance or you want to discuss it further, do not hesitate to contact us!