Data Governance: A Look Ahead from the Front Lines

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Data GovernanceWhen it comes to Data Governance and Data Management programs, the enterprise needs to be thinking about today – and tomorrow.

Data Governance leaders at financial services and planning organization TIAA are wrestling with the increasing pace of change and what its impact will be on current management and governance models. “The digital world is rapidly expanding, generating the real Big Data we talk about,” Michael Nicosia, V.P. of F&A Strategy, Data Governance and Continual Improvement, said in a recent presentation at the Enterprise Data World 2018 Conference with Carrie Fawcett, F&A at TIAA, titled The Future (Of Data Governance) Ain’t What It Used to Be – A Practitioner’s Perspective on the Future of Data Governance.

Today that can be seen in scenarios such as the 45,000 tweets that are being created per minute, and Amazon doing $45 million in sales every hour. By 2025, the world will be generating 163 zettabytes per year, according to IDC. Hundreds of billions of connected people – including teenagers who live in social media and have different ideas about privacy and trust – are interacting over multiple devices, much of it for real-time transactions.

With data commoditization comes the risk of not being able to gain value from it. “Its size and availability outpace the ability to derive insights,” according to Nicosia. That is, unless the enterprise thinks of data from a Data Management perspective, “not three years out, but seven to ten.”

In that timeframe it is likely that personal Data Management, where individuals are able to manage their own data, will take off. In fact, those teenagers now openly sharing their data may want to take greater responsibility for it, and better manage their data, metadata, and preferences.

Getting Ahead of the Game

What does it all mean for how the enterprise plots its long-term Data Management and Data Governance course?

Carrie Fawcett, F&A Data Governance at TIAA, noted that she believed organizational thinking will evolve to a recognition that data has such strategic value that the business and IT not only must talk to each other but in fact must merge together. “Data and corporate strategy will be the same thing.”

Another change is that the jobs done by Data Stewards today –  identifying critical business terms, maintaining Data Quality and building dashboards to monitor it all – will go by the wayside. “There’s too much data and not enough stewards to define rules, and create dashboards,” she said. “Plus, a lot of this data is going to be personally managed.” To that end, its accessibility and quality will depend much upon what data individuals choose to share, including how it all connects together. People may want incentives to make these connections more obvious – for instance, they may be willing to provide the data to consolidate various banking accounts (for kids, aging parents, and themselves) with one financial firm that provides high-end support services in exchange for the business.

Because only so much of the data being amassed will have implications for a company, the greatest value will come when the quality of information is high and the experts are there to help find the relevant data to bring into the organization.

Fawcett pointed to Data Curation roles that expose information with strategic value and drive new opportunities as being a key facet of governance moving forward. Consumers will do their part to clean data as they’ll be invested in it, ensuring that it’s correct for those they choose to share it with. But companies still will need data curation to meet strategic goals.

“Curators help us understand data that may be about the same thing but also completely different,” Fawcett said. She illustrated the point with the example of a book of bugs – one a storybook for children, and the other an anthology of beetles. The people directing what data to mine will be those who understand the business strategy and how to pattern-source to get data to support it: “If you need it, great; if not, throw it away.”

At the acquisition level, as when companies acquire data external to them, teams of people will also be needed to broker agreements about how that data is shared so that it can be curated, too. Then the job is to figure out how to provision data to the masses, making it available and accessible to those in the business who can use it in their everyday work.

Of course, that availability and accessibility depends on data tagging as well as having context and usage guides around it – for example, can the data be used for regulatory or marketing reporting? “As people get this data and incorporate it into their jobs, the way they work changes,” she said. Lacking time to follow dashboards to see who used data in the past, how and why, there needs to be an organic way for data that has been curated to be pushed down to the business, perhaps based on leadership and peer reviews of its quality. “Something will have to be done to our data like the Dewey Decimal System, so there’s help for finding what we want and making it searchable and accessible,” Fawcett said.

Keep in mind, though, that business users’ data requirements change all the time, and the status of data considered highly useful may change, Nicosia cautioned. “You need context and usage but that may change dynamically based on who uses the data,” he said.

Tools to Drive Future Strategy

Today disparate tools to manage and enable Data Management are the norm, but the future ideal is that the tools used to manage the business and the tools used to manage data will be the same, Nicosia and Fawcett explained. That’s because the enterprise data and business strategy will be the same.

At TIAA, work is underway using IBM’s Information Governance Catalog technology, and there are big dreams for it at least three years into the future. Still, the question remains as to its value seven years out, when the morphing of the two strategies comes to pass. “Hopefully it will morph into something we can use,” Nicosia said.

For now, they recommended, start by talking with your own organization about what your data may hold and thinking about the above issues. In concert with building expertise for critical efforts like data curation, consider partnering with colleges and universities to build the talent pipeline for those roles. At TIAA, “we are looking at the competencies we have today and whether we have what we need,” Fawcett said.

Partner closely with your vendors, too, and meet regularly with them so you know their plans for the future. That will help you to understand whether you might (or might not) have to move in a new direction. Nicosia recommends, “They should be on the cutting edge, thinking longer term and continuously improving.”


Check out Enterprise Data World at

Here is the video of the Enterprise Data World 2018 Presentation:


Photo Credit: agsandrew/

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