Don’t Do Data Governance If …

BLG02x - image EDThere’s a lot of talk about data governance today. But surprisingly, the number of organizations who “do data governance” is not high. In my opinion, data governance is a must-have for modern, data-driven businesses. I suppose there are a few reasons why your organization would decide not to do data governance.

… It’s Super Easy for Everyone in your Organization to Find Data

By now, many organizations have invested in some type of self-service BI or visualization tool. The hope is that this magical tool will unlock data for all business users so that they can uncover hidden insights that propel your company to new competitive heights. All they need is the right data, and the gems of wisdom will come spilling out. So if your organization is finding the right data quickly every time, without any issue, then you may not need to do data governance.

But if you’re like most companies that I talk to, the reality is far from this. There are probably a few data whizzes that are using your self-service BI tool to its fullest capacity, but chances are, most people are not. Why? There are a couple of reasons. First, they probably can’t find the data they need to do the analysis. And if they can’t find the data, then they are probably not using the tool very much, if at all. Second, assuming they find some data, they may not know what it means – or how to find out what it means. And if they don’t know what it means, then they probably don’t use the tool very much, if at all. Third, assuming they find the data AND know what it means, they don’t know whether it’s trustworthy. And if they don’t know if they can trust the data, then (and I’m sure you see where this is going), they probably don’t use the tool very much, if at all.

If this sounds familiar, don’t lose heart. Most companies I talk to are in the same boat. What they are realizing is that to make the promise of self-service BI a reality, they need data governance. They need a system of record for data, along with a governed data catalog that helps all their business users find, understand, and trust the data.

… Your Data Lake is Pristine

If you’re reading this blog post, then you are well aware of the hype around Big Data. Chances are, your organization has a data lake out there full of data sets that hold the secret to competitive edge. If your organization’s data lake is as pristine as an alpine meadow, then you may not need data governance.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a company whose data lake is anywhere close to being pristine. In fact, most data lakes are filled with slightly modified versions of the same data, and it’s no surprise, really. Data lakes held the promise of holding vast amounts of structured and unstructured data which data users could access using the self-service BI tools I mentioned earlier. But the problem is that the data going into the data lake is polluted, and there is no way of preventing more pollution from getting in there. Then you take some polluted data, mix it with other polluted data and create a new data set… you see where this is going.

The result is a muddy lake full of data that may – or may not – be of good quality. If this sounds like you, again, you’re not alone. Data governance can help. By establishing a governance process to check your data BEFORE you ingest it into your data lake, you can have confidence that the data you’re putting into your data lake is of high quality and follows the rules and standards set by your data organization. People who want to use that data can find it, and everything about it, easily, through a governed catalog.

… You’re Not Required to Comply with Any Regulations – and Never Will

Regulations are a critical part of modern business. Just ask any large bank who was forced to comply with BCBS 239 or CCAR. Not every business is as regulated as a bank, but increasingly, regulators of all types are not only asking for a report about your business, they are asking you to substantiate that those reports are correct and from the correct data. Now, you may be thinking, that doesn’t apply to me. So, I don’t need to do data governance.

But there’s more – like privacy regulation. Take the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for example. This new regulation focuses on the protection of personal data of EU citizens. It has massive reach – and massive implications if you don’t comply by May 25, 2018 (think 2-4% of global revenue in fines – yikes!). While you may be thinking “I’m a US-based firm. The GDPR doesn’t apply to me” – think again. Any company that does business with EU citizens and keeps information about them (even just names and phone numbers) will need to comply, even if they are not based in the EU. Part of compliance is being able to show that you are doing the right things to protect and secure EU citizens’ personal data. You’ll need to be able to show lineage, ownership, and access, among other things. And you guessed it – data governance is the key to proving you have a handle on personal data in your care.

So, if you can honestly say after reading this post that 1) your self-service BI tool is a smashing success and everyone in your organization can always find, understand, and trust the data, 2) your data lake is pristine and unspoiled 3) you’ll never – ever – need to comply with a regulation, then you probably don’t need data governance. But if this doesn’t sound like you, then data governance is probably a good next step. Ready to get started?

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About Daniel Sholler

Dan is an experienced software industry expert, with broad and deep experience in the data and software markets. Dan began his career as a developer and product manager for BI and reporting software, moved into integration and middleware. He spent several years at Gartner as an industry analyst in the software space, covering data management, middleware, application architecture, and SAP. He has spent time at various software companies, and is currently Product Evangelist and Influencer Relations at Collibra.

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