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What Is Data Governance (And How To Enhance Yours)

What Is Data Governance (And How To Enhance Yours)

A strong data governance strategy will make your SMB more transparent, more collaborative and more intentional in how it makes use of its most strategic asset.

The sales team could be inputting all kinds of valuable insight about common customer feedback into the CRM. Your marketing automation system might be tracking engagement across a slew of digital channels. Customer service managers could be monitoring key performance indicators such as call resolution and handling time.

Even with all this data at your company’s disposal, there’s still one question that should always be top of mind – is everyone using the data correctly? The only way to be sure is to have a proper data governance strategy in place.

Governance could be broadly defined as the rules or policies by which companies are run and how decisions are made. Large companies in particular have had to be mindful about governance, especially if they are subject to industry regulations.

Data governance takes that concept and applies it to the information that companies of all sizes collect, manage and store.

Data Governance Parameters

Whether you operate in a sector like retail, manufacturing or some other vertical market, the general principles of data governance are largely the same. The policies or rules you establish need to cover the following five areas:

Access: Who is authorized to view, edit or use the data?

Accuracy: What provisions are in place to ensure the data is free of error and up to date?

Privacy: How does the way data is handled ensure it remains private, (especially in the case of customers’ personally identifiable information, or PII)?

Security: What safeguards are in place to ensure the data will not be threatened by cybersecurity attacks from external third parties, or even rogue actors from within the company?

Retention: How long does the company need to hold on to this data based on legal or business requirements? Once it’s no longer needed, how can it be disposed of in a safe way?

Why Data Governance is Important

The governance of a company’s data matters because it’s core to how companies deliver winning customer and employee experiences with trust at the heart of every interaction.

When the data is well-governed, for instance, employees and customers know they can entrust the company with their data, and can continue to provide additional data with confidence.

For the business itself, meanwhile, good data governance helps avoid disconnects that lead to poor coordination of teams, mistakes and other elements that could jeopardize customer relationships (or get the company in legal trouble). On the other hand, it can empower companies to know their customers better, and deliver customer magic by personalizing every interaction.

Data governance is simply the ethical way to manage a digital-first business. It speaks to the values of some of the most successful companies, and it’s something even the smallest firms can adopt.

A Beginner’s Guide To DIY Data Governance

In large organizations, data governance might fall under the purview of a special committee, made up of senior executives from multiple functions across the business. These steering committees may also appoint those on the front lines of various departments to act as “data stewards” – people who will be responsible for monitoring on controls for data and reporting back on any issues or challenges.

Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have a team large enough to make up a data governance committee, and the owner or CEO might have to be among those who play the role of data steward. What’s important is that data governance is well understood by everyone in the company, and that it is applied consistently and with attention to detail.

If you haven’t tackled data governance before, here are some of key action items:

Identify all data assets and their current state: You can’t govern the use of data if much of what’s happening within the company is shrouded in mystery. Expect to spend some time conducting internal research with relevant stakeholders about the data that’s critical to their jobs and the common practices. Document as much of these processes as you can.

Define or adopt the appropriate standards: What does quality data mean to your company? This could vary depending on your use of it, but this isn’t an exercise in developing policies and rules from scratch. Talk to business partners, peers in non-competitive firms or turn to industry bodies that may have data governance frameworks you can readily adopt.

Train and empower employees: Your team needs to understand if anything about your data governance strategy will change their day-to-day handling of data, and why. Talk about how to escalate issues of misuse or ways to resolve any problems. Create easy mechanisms to ask questions or communicate concerns (like in a dedicated Slack channel, for instance).

Establish a cadence for data governance review and updates: The policies and rules you put in place are bound to change based on how your business evolves, as well as with advances in technology. The rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools is a good example. Put time in the calendar to regroup and discuss how your data governance should be optimized.

Commit to a set of data governance metrics: What should success look like if everyone understands and follows the rules in how data is used? Common metrics could include reduced risk of errors, changes in data quality scores or even lower costs to the business.

Data Governance is an Ongoing Conversation

A great employee experience means there should be no question marks around data governance. As your approach to maintaining data quality and protecting data continues to mature, develop a communications plan that will keep everyone on the same page. This could happen through an employee newsletter, a corporate intranet or a Slack channel.

A strong data governance strategy will make your business more transparent, more collaborative, and more intentional in how it makes use of its most strategic asset. Use this guide to get the data governance process started today.

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