Data is one of the most valuable assets available to your business and how effectively you manage the quality, stewardship and accountability of that asset will determine, to a large extent, the overall success of your business.

The successful governance of your data requires participation and accountability across the organisation, from data stewards through to top level executives. To ensure effective implementation, there are five key data governance principles you need to be aware of.

1. Accountability

Accountability is of the utmost importance in any successful data governance process. If no-one takes ownership of your organisation’s data governance it will be directionless, blunt and ineffective. Ownership and accountability has to be applied across the organisation.  If just one department –  such as IT – assumes responsibility, other business leaders may come to see what is an organisation-wide concern, as something that only IT has to worry about.

To ensure cross-organisation accountability you should establish a data governance council, comprised of representatives from all departments including leading executives. The newly established data governance council will define data procedures and policies to be implemented across the organisation and will have the authority to ensure they are observed faithfully.

2. Standardized Rules and Regulations

Any successful data governance process will need to define and abide by standardised rules and regulations to protect their data and to ensure it is used in accordance with all relevant external regulations (such as the GDPR). These standardised rules and regulations will define guidelines for all aspects of data usage and will be established at data governance council level and enforced by the data steward(s).

3. Data Stewardship

Responsibility follows on from accountability as essential in implementing effective data governance throughout your organisation. The key to ensuring the appropriate responsibility is taken for your organization’s data is to employ a dedicated data steward. This individual will be accountable to the data council and will be responsible for the implementation of the data rules and regulations defined by the council, as well as ensuring that these are complied with on an ongoing basis.

4. Data Quality Standards

In order to make intelligent and effective business decisions it is crucial for individuals to be able to draw upon high-quality, trustworthy data, but you’d be surprised to learn how few companies can actually trust the data at their disposal.

To improve the quality of your business data, the data governance council in collaboration with the data steward(s), should define a common set of data quality standards. These standards will focus on ensuring that the quality of your data is measured and recorded, and that the organisation as a whole understands and abides by these standards.

5. Transparency

All data governance processes implemented throughout your organisation should exhibit the utmost transparency. By keeping a permanent record of all relevant data governance actions and processes, it should be completely clear to any potential third party audit how sensitive data has been handled, what it has been used for and why it has been used in that way. This transparency will protect your organisation in the event of a data breach and will also allow you to continually learn from the way data is used throughout your business.

These five principles form the foundation of any successful data governance strategy, and allow key employees throughout the organisation to assist in the implementation of the strategy itself and to ensure it is observed on an ongoing basis.

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