Just like its real-world highway companion, a regulatory guardrail helps keep companies safe by making sure they stay on the road. C-level executives have long perceived data governance in this way: a rigid structural necessity that helps keep the company in-line with existing and emerging privacy and compliance regulations.

Yet nobody likes to do things just because they have to do them. And indeed, adoption of effective data governance programs is often sluggish because it’s seen as a regulatory burden – a tactical necessity that needs to be checked off the long and ever-growing list of to-do’s.

Yet here’s a little known secret: data governance is actually a strategic organizational enabler. If implemented correctly, it’s an advantage that helps companies use data smarter, react faster and be more agile in the marketplace. It allows organizations to reinvent themselves faster in the face of sudden changes or newly-incorporated technologies. And it can serve as an opportunity playbook to create new products, identify new market opportunities and efficiently leverage existing business processes, people and technology to continually turn data into an enriched asset for the organization.

Far from burdensome, data governance initiatives carry a world of benefits that can serve as building blocks that are reusable, scalable and extensible and resonate far beyond compliance, IT, security or even the executive suite. Here are six surprising things that data governance could do:

guard rail 2009-07-26-berlin-by-RalfR.jpg
– Ralf Roletschek / Wikimedia

Six surprising data governance benefits

1 Faster agile growth

Data governance is a springboard for growth because without formalized and unified business and data-sharing processes, confusion and inefficiency rule. Companies that make things run smoother with data governance enable everyone to be on the same page as to what needs to be done, react faster to new business opportunities and thereby facilitate faster growth at scale.

2 Streamlined knowledge flow

In any organization, data silos lead to lack of transparency on data availability and poor data consumption. But effective data governance allows more data to be used by more people. By creating a data catalog so people can find out what and where data is available, companies break down physical data silos and streamline knowledge flow across teams. 

3 Higher data quality

Data governance ensures that an organization’s data producers remain transparent in documenting each data set's limitations. This is crucial so that data consumers understand what each data set can and can’t offer them. By ensuring that data set parameters are clearly understood by everyone, companies can use their data for the right purpose, unencumbered by disappointments owing to unrealistic expectations.

4 More consistent communication

While data assets are traditionally well-documented by data architects and IT system owners, data governance ties the business logic layer to these technical data sets. By building out a business glossary, data governance empowers business stakeholders to speak the same language when referring to data sets. This allows organizations to communicate more consistently about data – ensuring that critical business insights are both actionable and shareable. 

5 Enhanced management efficiency

In any organization, new or old, it’s important to understand who exactly does what. Data governance helps companies coalesce organizational responsibilities, formalizing roles that may already exist, and defining roles that may have never been clarified. This enhances overall management efficacy and more effectively codifies the decision-making process.

6 Trusted decision-making

Data scientists that follow and understand data governance methodologies ensure less bias and more accurate results. By leveraging data governance to instill a culture of data quality and methodical data production, companies enjoy a higher level of trust in analytics results, and executives make key decisions based on accurate and timely insights.

The Bottom Line

Changing the perception of data governance offers organizations a world of advantages and opportunities. Since good data governance provides benefits for the entire company, everyone from the production floor to the executive suite should be involved in its management with attitudes shifting from one of burden to benefit.  Companies can not only meet the regulatory imperatives currently driving many data governance initiatives but they also gain significant competitive market advantages in the process.

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