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How to avoid data governance nightmares

Sairam Bollapragada Head, Global Delivery Center, Micro Focus Professional Services
Satish Matukumalli Practice Manager, Micro Focus
Empty and lighted corridor at Heinz college of information systems and public policy, Pittsburgh, United States

Data governance is a growing challenge, complicated by a plethora of new laws requiring compliance. And the stress only goes up with increasing data volumes coming from multiple structured and unstructured digital data sources.

Complicating factors include enterprises' requirements for architecture, infrastructure, data stewardship, and compute and their intricate systems and applications. Teams' lack of awareness adds to the problem.

Governance elements to consider

Governing the data management ecosystem is an ever-evolving discipline. Here's what you need to consider for effective information governance.

Data volumes 

This is the amount of transactional data flowing in and out of the organization through various systems and applications.

Data sensitivity and data quality requirements

Who are the users requiring the data, and do they require any sensitive information such as personally identifiable information (PII)? If so, you need to ensure it is available through appropriate access mechanisms. Also, the quality of the data is critical; this includes how accurate the data is and how complete and useable it is.

Data currency

It's essential that the data collected, analyzed, and used is the latest available. It is the data owners' responsibility to ensure that any duplicate or redundant data is cleaned up. 

Data encryption, storage, and archival/retrieval

PII and other sensitive/confidential data need to be encrypted before being stored, in line with all compliance-related rules and policies. Similarly, you need to determine whether PII or other sensitive and confidential data needs to be encrypted before being archived. This is before even thinking of any type of consumption such as processing or reporting.  

Data processing mechanisms

Organizations need to be extra-cautious and consider regulatory acts such as the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Because of GDPR, organizations acquiring and processing personal data of EU citizens need to be careful, regardless of where processing occurs.

Business data insights

The most important aspect of information governance is to provide timely insights to senior management so they can make informed decisions. Data accuracy, integrity, and recency are critical success factors to help provide valuable insights.

Why governance matters

Not addressing these factors can contribute to poor data management and can severely hurt the reputation of an organization. Also, the lack of governance can lead to heavy penalties. Amazon was recently hit by an $877 million, GDPR-related fine because of a cookie consent issue. Many other companies have run afoul of GDPR also, to the tune of millions of dollars in fines.

Another consideration is future business prospects if data breaches or compromises make it appear your company lacks even the intent of protecting customers' personal data. This may lead to a huge cost in lost opportunities and market share.

How to create strong governance

Organizations need to design a robust information governance framework. Here's what you need to do. 

Educate employees

Data breaches and compliance violations are often the result of a lack of awareness among employees regarding policies, processes, etc. Regular awareness sessions, communication/campaigns, periodic audits, and regular mandatory awareness quizzes go some way toward addressing the awareness issue. But even then, some who are aware often ignore the policies anyway.

Learn about and comply with all related laws and regulations

The increasing number and growing scale of data breaches across the world have spurred many regions and countries to introduce regulations to protect PII-related data. These rules require organizations to design and implement efficient policies, ensuring compliance. 

Organizations need to continuously adapt to new data protection laws and ensure the right amount of supervision, from data creation to disposal, to minimize the risk of data breaches and compliance violations. This necessitates the need for appropriate data stewardship. 

Optimize costs

As multiple digital initiatives—including records management, asset management, marketing, operations, and workflows—run across organizations, data beyond what's strictly required is getting collected, requiring more resources and cost to store and manage.

A good information governance framework will ensure that only the required level and types of data are collected and managed through its lifecycle. This will improve the efficiency of the overall data management and reduce costs. Controlling the proliferation of information storage and its underlying infrastructure can produce significant cost savings.

Improve productivity and get better insights

A balanced approach to data management—with the right mix of manual effort and tools to automate workflows, processing, reporting of data, and other repeatable data tasks—can ensure that employees have time to work on necessary activities because they have been freed from the mundane. This improves not only productivity, but satisfaction levels as well.

In addition to an information governance framework ensuring that data is safe, secure, and in compliance, the process will also help provide valuable insights to help manage the business.

A strong enterprise-level data analytics system can ensure timely data analysis, allowing management decisions to be backed with data and to set the right business growth strategies.

Get your governance in order

The unprecedented pace at which the data is growing, due to the advent of digital channels, means that information governance is becoming more challenging and sensitive by the day. Every customer whose data is being shared requires privacy and protection.

This is leading to lot of privacy regulations and related laws, from Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act. 

In the absence of a strong governance program, conducting business within the confines of these laws and policies can quickly become a nightmare for all the parties involved.

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