Six Steps to Data Governance Success

Without a doubt, data has become the raw material of the information economy, and data governance is a strategic imperative.

By Steven Adler
Thu, May 31, 2007

CIO — Data is valuable. As the challenge of protecting customer data mounts, more and more businesses are embracing data-governance strategies to manage the information that serves as the lifeblood of the company. Without a doubt, data has become the raw material of the information economy, and data governance is a strategic imperative.

Increasingly, companies seeking competitive advantage are also leveraging data governance to proactively add value to the bottom line. It is about getting the right information to the right people at the right time and enabling the entire organization to seize new opportunities rather than simply operating in a reactionary way.

Such opportunities don’t wait, and neither do crises. Businesses need to know what’s happening not just in their own organizations, but also within all of the companies they touch, whether they are vendors, customers or partners. Having real-time access to information is crucial. It is important to know where the data resides and what it is worth, and calculate the probability of risk and cost to the organization in the event that it’s stolen.

With more than a billion people connected online today, we are at the dawn of a data explosion, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage and control the terabytes of data residing within different parts of the organization. Many companies use the “fortress” method, a big thick perimeter wall to keep out the bad guys. But this method can be problematic since not all data has the same value, not all risks are outside the perimeter, and not all controls can effectively prevent fraud. The fortress model of data security creates a one-size-fits-all approach, allowing organizations to overprotect low-quality data and underprotect high-value information like customer account details or employee Social Security numbers, regardless of business context or use.

Governing data today is an organizational responsibility, and there is clearly a need for common solutions and governance models to protect and share data on different levels across the organization. Moreover, the complexity extends beyond structured customer data. Organizations are concerned about governing access to many types of data including unstructured content, trade secrets, financial data, patient information, video, audio, etc.

Beyond new methods to protect data, effective data governance can play a vital role in driving new business opportunities and retaining existing customers by improving overall data quality and business intelligence. Companies seeking to get a true handle on their data must go beyond simply protecting it.

Here are six simple steps that every company can take today to govern data successfully:

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