In a competitive business environment, organizations need a business-focused data governance strategy to organize and leverage their data to create competitive advantage. Data governance is critical to ensuring that business users understand their data and that data can serve the needs of everyone in the organization to drive business decisions. However, businesses are often limited when it comes to resources, budget and buy-in from upper management.

Ideally, getting a data governance program off the ground starts by appointing a Chief Data Officer (CDO). The CDO is the executive leader in charge of all data governance efforts. The position works directly under the CEO to spearhead the establishment of formal processes and the implementation of the appropriate tools and teams for governance, as well as to encourage the utilization of high-quality data across the entire enterprise. Unfortunately, due to limited resources, many organizations can’t afford the salary of another C-suite executive to assume these duties.

Implementing Data Governance Without a CDO

When a business team is assigned a project, the team leader lays out the ground rules and assigns roles and responsibilities to each team member. A data governance project is no different. Organizations without a CDO must appoint a leader to manage data governance efforts, but, all too often, the rest of the team doesn’t know where to start.

Without CDO leadership, attempts to launch a data governance program might begin with basic information gathering and a push to document business terms, reports and other data details in simple tools like Excel spreadsheets. This diligent work will likely generate a mess of random spreadsheets and resources that are disorganized, isolated and, all too quickly, outdated.

That approach to data governance isn’t only unscalable, it is completely unsustainable, especially with so much data at stake. Sure, the business might succeed in treading water with this approach, but eventually, there is too much data to keep track of through manual means. The process of maintaining multiple files in disparate departments grows too burdensome and the program inevitably breaks down.

Fortunately, modern tools and technologies can substitute for the role of a CDO to ensure data governance success. While CDOs typically provide the strategy and structure that improve data governance efforts, state-of-the-art tools help jump-start data governance initiatives. Businesses need the right tool to fill in for the CDO, without going over budget, to create long-term data governance success.

Leveraging Technology to Take on the CDO Role

Data governance contributes to a data-driven culture by simplifying the data experience for business users. In a data-driven culture, users understand and easily leverage data as an enterprise-wide asset. Successful enterprise data governance involves a tool that not only manages data access and understanding, but also augments an organization’s data quality and the insights that data provides. The tool must incorporate diverse capabilities that work together to protect against the confusion that comes from data sprawl and overly technical tools.

The tool also requires enterprise data governance capabilities to enable business users to quickly organize and visualize crucial details of their data assets from reports to business terms. Organizations then have a comprehensive view of their data landscape, allowing all users to easily define and understand data, track data lineage and effectively manage all aspects of their data assets.

The tool ought to include data quality capabilities to profile data and to check data integrity, consistency, conformity, completeness, timeliness and for reconciliations. When changes occur to business terms, the tool should automatically determine the impact on data integrity to ensure continued trust among business users. In addition, the modern-day tool incorporates analytics capabilities and applies machine learning algorithms for self-learning to constantly improve data quality.

An integrated tool with capabilities for data governance, data quality and analytics facilitates a broad understanding of an organization’s data landscape, which enables data owners, stewards and business users to efficiently manage, share and utilize data. The results strengthen business decisions, increase ROI and improve operational efficiency.

When business users across departments can easily trace data’s path through the data supply chain, from source through reporting, it builds widespread trust in data quality and confidence in their data knowledge. Ultimately, these data-enabled organizations encourage data utilization among business users and foster better communication across the enterprise, resulting in a data-driven culture, without breaking the budget for a CDO.

About the Author

Reuben Vandeventer, Chief Data Officer in Residence at Infogix.

Reuben Vandeventer has been driving progress and helping to shape the data space for more than a decade, across many industries including medical device, pharmaceutical, insurance and asset management. As the data space has rapidly evolved, his background in science, statistics and finance has created a robust foundation to create real economic value for organizations in new and innovative ways. Throughout his career, he has served in key strategic leadership roles for some of the top financial services organizations in the world. In these roles, he has developed a repeatable way to analyze, study and design data communities (people that are accountable and care about data), revolutionizing the respective organization’s approach to pragmatic data strategy.