How to champion an effective data governance strategy

Data & Analytics

Photo of Bradley Hopkins

Bradley Hopkins

Head of Data and Analytics, Telstra Purple EMEA LinkedIn

When most people think about data governance, the first thing that generally comes to mind is compliance. However, effective data governance strategies encompass so much more than this.

According to Gartner, data governance includes processes around the valuation, creation, consumption and control of data and analytics. This is well beyond the scope of merely maintaining compliance obligations, as it takes all aspects of organisational data strategies into account.

Noting this, organisations need to think more comprehensively about how they’re managing data governance, especially if they’re processing highly-sensitive or personal information.

The first step of crafting an effective data governance strategy involves a thorough audit of all important and non-important data. This provides organisations with an opportunity to improve the quality of data and gain an understanding of where it is created, consumed and where it flows, ultimately facilitating more accurate and efficient data analysis.

These were just some of the issues recently discussed at an Australia-UK chamber of commerce roundtable event, carried out in partnership with Telstra Purple. This event brought together data leaders from across the industrial spectrum, providing an outlet for experts to discuss data governance issues under Chatham House rules.

Realising the power of data

reflection of data data from a screen on a lady's face

While data undoubtedly has the power to transform business growth, according to Australian and UK industry leaders at the event, there is a challenge around communicating the value of data sharing to relevant stakeholders.

Data drives business models in numerous sectors, supporting better research and enhanced policy outcomes. Take Telstra Purple customer Genomics England, a company that uses an innovative single data strategy to process hundreds of petabytes of data, as part of a mission to synthesise 100,000 genomes to better understand rare diseases.

It’s important that organisations find a common language for talking about data management with partners and suppliers to create a positive, principles-driven culture. Organisations can achieve this through non-technical ‘storytelling’, focusing on demonstrating the power of data to drive business benefit.

This could involve engaging with various stakeholders to talk about how they use data and assessing whether major pain-points could be alleviated through better data use. This helps to demonstrate the power data has and facilitates buy-in from a range of business units.

Data experts should also work with non-data teams across organisations to support them in managing their own data and educate them around best-practice data management.

Don’t make security an inhibitor

Hands typing on laptop and holding a security key

It is easy to take an overly cautious, compliance-led approach to data governance, especially for organisations that process the data of European citizens and are thus subject to GDPR laws. Although this can sometimes serve to inhibit innovation, with confusion over compliance resulting in organisations ‘playing it safe’.

To alleviate this, businesses must build transparency and empower their staff to better understand their responsibilities around the use of data.

Organisations should implement principles of ‘transparency by design’, which describes the process of ensuring open, transparent and accountable data collection practices, while making the benefits clear to customers. This forges a beneficial ‘value exchange’, as customers are increasingly willing to trade data for improved customer experience.

Companies must actively educate their customers about how their data is used and incorporate fairness into their products and strategies from the start to win customers’ goodwill. Companies who don’t do this will find themselves at serious disadvantage, as customers will flee for more privacy-friendly/transparent alternatives.

Data governance investment also provides a higher degree of visibility over all company data, increasing quality of data and potential for improved analytics and insight. For these reasons, the increased security and compliance elements of data governance shouldn’t be seen as an inhibitor, but an enabler.

Although by no means should organisations become lax on data regulation. The risks around data management extend beyond breaches, financial penalties or data loss and can involve reputational damage, even from minor data mismanagement.

Crafting an effective strategy

Woman writing on whiteboard with male colleague

Getting started will depend on the size and complexity of the organisation. For example, larger businesses may have business units operating under separate approaches to data. There may also be a shift towards an approach where each business unit operates under common principles, but implements a data governance strategy that is fit-for-purpose for that particular unit.

To mitigate this risk, the people telling the story about data should be in the room at the technical design stage and at the implementation stage – so that they are integrated from the beginning and working with technical colleagues rather than a siloed approach.

It might also be useful to consider a ‘data mesh’ layout, instead of centralised data repositories or data lakes. These frameworks represent a more distributed data infrastructure layout, with different, interlinked domains fulfilling the needs of different business units.

Organisations and data leaders should lay out goals clearly and succinctly at early stages, building an understanding of how data policy is changing and what everyone will need to do. This will alleviate ‘scope creep’, which is the idea that data is used for more than what it was intended for.

Although organisations shouldn’t try to tackle data governance all on their own. They should look to an experienced partner with a reputation for driving transformation change. At Telstra Purple, we help all types of organisations navigate their data journeys, providing best-practice advice for all stages of data governance transformation.

We’re committed to giving tech leaders the tools they need to succeed, providing support in their professional and organisational journeys via our dedicated community of industry leaders.

To learn more about how to improve data governance within your organisation, consider getting in touch with Telstra Purple consultant today. By developing a thorough understanding of where you’re placed in your data governance journey, you can craft an intuitive strategy for improvement, designed to meet the needs of your organisation. To find out more, click here.

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