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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kalin

A Guide to Data Governance

What is data governance?

Your company has data, lots of data! And you're ready to start putting it to use. Before launching yourself and your team into the world of data analysis, it's important to first think through your data governance strategy. Simply put, data governance refers to the processes a business utilizes to ensure data quality, security, and availability. Deciding where your data will be stored, who can access it, how it will be protected, and how its quality is maintained are all important responsibilities of any data governance team.

Why is data governance important?

At its core, data governance delivers on two company imperatives: security and accuracy. A solid governance policy will protect your company's fastest growing asset from external and internal interference. At the same time, governance will be focused on making sure your data is clean and understandable which allows for fact-based decision making across the organization.

How do I establish data governance in my company?

(Assembling Your Data Governance Team)

There are 3 primary roles needed on a Data Governance Team. First, we have Data Owners - the primary stakeholders for the dataset. For instance, a director in the Sales organization may be the data owner for commissions data while the Fulfillment Sr Manager owns the shipping and inventory data. These are the folks in your company most invested and familiar with your data: they know it, they use it to make decisions, and they are definitely interested in keeping it accurate. In their capacity as part of Data Governance, these folks are responsible for ensuring company-wide adherence to data usage policies. A company may have many data owners or just a couple depending on how you want to divide up your data areas of responsibility.

Our second type of role is the Data Manager. Data Managers walk the line between data analyst and data stewards. They set up monitoring on the underlying data to detect changes, create the code to clean the data, create accessible data documentation and vet KPI's to ensure correct interpretation across the company. Data Managers can work across all areas of your company data and will act as a liaison between the Data Owners and Data Architects.

Third, Data Architects act as custodians of the underlying data structure itself. They build the server your data sits on, manage the user permission levels, ensure the uptime and speed of your environment, and support rigorous security measures. Working with the Data Managers, this is the role that keeps the lights on.

(A Governance Team's First Steps)

The first task of your new Data Governance team will be to target your business's challenges. Data improvement can swiftly mutate from an excellent idea to never-ending fall through a rabbit hole. If your company is having problems with departments understanding their performance then target building solid KPI's; if data is coming in 5 different ways (from API to email to faxes) then target data consolidation. Fit the team's goals to what will best help you now, the goal can always be reset after your initial projects complete!

Next, the team will assign roles, responsibilities, and rules. This will, in part, be a formalizing of the team assembly. Who makes the decisions? Whose metrics are the right ones? Which departments can see which datasets? These are all questions that need to be addressed within the team before company-wide enforcement can begin.

Another must-have before executing on these new rules will be setting those Data Managers to work! They've got to ensure the integrity of the data. This means profiling the current system to understand what is available; standardizing fields and metrics; enriching datasets, where possible, by joining in new data points; and establishing monitoring to ensure quality is maintained.

Lastly, the company must be willing to use the data and that often necessitates a culture shift. From the top-most exec to the newest intern, the company must be ready to start making decisions as a result of data and analysis. Data driven businesses start with driven people who are committed to using their data and not simply their intuition.


Before diving into the world of data-driven decision making, you'll need a plan and to support that plan you'll need a data governance team. These initial steps will ensure a solid foundation for your future analysis-supported decisions!

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