Article:

Who owns Data Governance in your organisation?

24 August 2021

Fahim Khondaker, Partner, Consulting |
Schalk Kock, Partner, Digital & Technology Advisory |

As our thirst for information continues to grow and organisations store more and more data, data governance has become one of the most crucial ‘get rights’ for any organisation.

IBM and the Hosting Tribunal write that “90% of all data has been created in the last two years. In 2021, every human on the planet will be creating 1.7megabytes of information….each second!”

In our conversations with businesses, however, we hear that this is one of the hardest domains for organisations to find an internal owner for and further, to secure a commitment to invest in.

Many businesses do not acknowledge data governance as essential to their DNA, but.are already talking about implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Without a solid data governance structure in place, there is no foundation for any further advanced analytics.

Many organisations are finding that the barrier to successful implementation is not a lack of internal technical capability but rather, a lack of confidence in the accuracy of the underlying data.

This is why data governance has become such a topical issue, but many organisations still don’t fully appreciate the potential benefits. These include internal benefits such as creating a single source of truth and improved decision making, and external benefits, such as enabling improved customer experience and honing of product and service offerings.

In a 2019 survey by Gartner, 40% of respondents did not assess, measure or monitor governance, indicating that they were unable to verify whether their governance initiatives added any business value.

Yet, if you asked a business how important accurate and secure data is to their business decisions, they would generally tell you that it’s imperative.

Another article from Gartner notes that “effective governance is critical for successful data and analytics initiatives, yet organizations continue their epic struggle to master it. Unless data and analytics leaders identify and overcome barriers to effective governance, their credibility as partners to the business is at risk.”

What are the barriers to effective governance?

Many organisations typically see these barriers as one or all of the following:

  • a lack of internal ability and skill to define the Data Governance capability
  • the business struggling to see the potential benefits
  • the challenge of obtaining the necessary funding to implement

However, perhaps the biggest barrier that we have identified is the question of ownership: Many businesses assume this is a technology domain - we don’t agree.

If leaders in the business feel that data governance is a purely technical issue, then your business has a problem to solve.

Many organisations that have implemented data governance place it under the Chief Financial Officer or the Chief Operating officer and even the Chief Risk Officer. For some organisations, it logically sits under a Chief Data Officer, however this role is not as prevalent in most businesses.

A CFO, COO or CRO will bring a slightly skewed perspective to data governance because inherently, their business focus is very different. Regardless of this skew, the organisation having identified an owner at the right executive level is itself a positive sign.

Struggling to find data governance a home? Read on…

So, what can you do if the ownership issue is an ongoing one for your organisation? Here are our top three tips:

  1. Win hearts and minds by communicating the benefits of Data Governance. Start at the top (i.e. CEO or even the Board) and work downwards, tailoring the message to each executive in your business.
  2. Define the Data Governance Framework for your organisation and align the framework to the Organisational Strategy, Operating Model, Risk and Compliance aspects as well as the Environmental Factors (such as the Organisation’s Culture).
  3. Establish a Data Governance Committee with a clear mandate. However, leave the executive sponsor vacant, identify the right person to take on this role and work hard to get them on board. An owner who is willing and understands the critical nature of data governance to the success of the organisation will make all the difference.

If you’d like to talk to us about data governance for your organisation or business, please reach out to one of our data specialists.