The Evolution of Data Governance

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Click to learn more about author Olivia Hinkle.

This is the second part of a series on Data Governance, see part one here.

Today’s forward-thinking businesses place enormous emphasis on all things data. It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, the shift toward a data-focused strategy has largely occurred in the last two decades. In the early 2000s, companies began to recognize data as a valuable asset that can be used to drive business results through data optimization and data-driven insights. More recently, in the wake of high-profile data breaches and consumer security concerns, companies have shifted their focus to the handling and treatment of data. This has led to an era where Data Privacy, Data Security, and Data Governance have become top priorities.

These three distinct ideas — Data Privacy, Data Security, and Data Governance — are all tightly intertwined, and each must be executed properly to achieve business success. To be clear:

  • Data Privacy is related to the proper use and handling of data — how it’s collected, whether it can be shared with third parties, and how it’s used.
  • Data Security is related to the confidentiality and integrity of data — how it’s stored and protected from unauthorized access, how long it can be retained, and how it’s destroyed when no longer needed.
  • Data Governance is related to the people, processes, and technology an organization employs to manage its use of data — making sure the right people have the right level of access to data.

This last topic, in particular, Data Governance, is a concept that many businesses have yet to embrace. Yet it’s likely to take on increased importance in the years to come as the landscape of data continues to grow and change.

The Ghosts of Data Governance Past

Not long ago, Data Governance was a loosely defined concept, very different from the policies and best practices we know today. At the outset, it was essentially just a process for cataloging large quantities of transactional data, generally considered a function of the IT department.

As the new millennium dawned, it ushered in the age of big data, when companies began to recognize the value of their data beyond transactional record keeping. They became more reliant on data analysis for decision-making, and ERP technology reached new levels of sophistication. Data Governance evolved into a more collaborative effort, as it became clear that different groups from across an organization could derive benefits from the same data sets.

The Current State of Data Governance

Today’s companies operate in a world where data is absolutely critical to business success, and the amount of data being produced is truly staggering. At the same time, they’re facing new data compliance requirements (GDPR and CCPA), as well as more complex consumer expectations around the use of their personal data.

Data-driven companies are embracing these data challenges by creating cross-functional teams and collaborative processes to manage their critical business data. They’re taking a policy-centric approach to data quality, data security, data accessibility, and data lifecycle management. And, as intelligent CRM systems become a reality, they’re employing powerful technology solutions to implement and enforce these policies. The end result is a new and better understanding of what data a company has, how it’s being handled, and how it can be used to drive the business forward.

What Comes Next in Data Governance

Data Governance has come a long way, but don’t get too comfortable with the way things stand today. The pace of business continues to accelerate, and Data Governance is no exception. As Data Governance continues to evolve, we’re likely to see new developments such as:

  • Data Policy as Part of the Corporate Culture: As Data Governance becomes more widely understood and accepted, data-focused policies and practices will become more firmly entrenched in corporate culture. Employees across every area of the business will come to understand that the handling and control of data is a critical business function.
  • A Shift to “Data Intelligence:” Leading businesses are doing more than just managing their data; they’re finding ways to transform data into knowledge. By applying advanced technologies like AI and machine learning to Data Management and Data Governance, these companies will be able to extract information and insights to drive product innovations, enhance the customer experience, and identify new opportunities. 
  • Automation of Data Governance Processes: As more businesses turn to self-service models for business operations, intelligent CRM platforms have the potential to take the guesswork out of deciding who has permission to access which data. Automating Data Governance will provide an efficient, user-friendly way for employees across various business functions (like marketing, sales, customer support, and finance) to access the data they need.
  • The Rapid Expansion of Data Privacy Requirements: Governing bodies around the world will continue to institute policies and laws with regard to data privacy, adding to an already complex regulatory environment. Data Governance will continue to evolve as privacy evolves, to ensure that a company’s most valuable asset is never put at risk due to non-compliance with applicable requirements.
  • New Sources and Types of Data: As the amount of data created continues to skyrocket, new types and sources of data are inevitable. Data Governance programs will have to adapt to address emerging sources of data from advanced mobile technologies, new social media platforms, and countless future developments to decide how it can be best housed and leveraged.
  • Increased Focus on Data Retention: As the amount of data under a company’s control continues to grow, strict policies around data retention will become a higher priority.  

As data remains the foundation for business decisions, every company is now in the business of data. Proper Data Governance policies and practices can help to ensure this critical business asset is handled properly, especially as new advancements in technology, new requirements around privacy, and new trends in consumer behavior emerge.

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