By Elliot King

Elliot King

It seems like everybody knows, or should know, that data is a company’s most important asset. Data is the primary commodity employees, customers and suppliers generate and consume everyday–it is the corporate lifeblood. Data is the raw material that let’s organizations know if they are doing well or falling short. Data forms the basis of corporate decision-making.

But data also can represent the greatest risk companies face. Faulty data and
data that can be inappropriately accessed leads to unhappy customers, missed
opportunities, unnecessarily high costs, and, in many cases, legal liability.
How many times in the recent past have there been data breaches in which data
thieves have purloined sensitive or private information?

Sprawling, out-of-control IT infrastructures–the kind so many of us
have–exacerbate the risks that data can present. The same sensitive data may be
stored in two, three, four or more data silos. Slightly different customer
information captured through different mechanisms can distort the use and
analysis of customer databases and disrupt downstream applications that depend
on that information.

As the data universe for many organizations becomes ever increasingly complex,
the need for an enterprise-wide data governance program becomes more acute.
Simply put, data governance can be thought of as a set of policies, procedures
and technologies used to enhance the value of data to an enterprise and to limit
the risks. If you’ve followed the news from Washington, D.C. over the past
couple of months you know that governance is a tricky business.

All the stakeholders have to be in the room to make decisions. The stakeholders
have to work for common understandings and definitions and be sensitive to the
needs of others. For example, strict control of data access may be great to
reduce the threat of unauthorized disclosure. But if access to data is too
tightly controlled, innovation can be squelched and significant business
processes may be unnecessarily burdened.

Taming ungoverned territory takes time and effort and that is true for
instituting a governance program as well. But the effort is essential to
increase your data value and to mitigate its risk.


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