Why Data Governance is necessary in transforming companies

Posted on: October 21, 2018 by

Now that the new GDPR has come into action, companies are obliged to monitor what data they collect, who within the organization is using it and for what purpose. When talking to clients, we see that a lot of them are driven by a near-future vision of doing business through data. As this is a struggle for many since the introduction of GDPR, we would like to inspire you with a story of one of my clients that became digital, data-driven and GDPR compliant.

Transforming data into valuable insights

The challenge was in transforming data into valuable insights: How to organize, get a grip on- and get in control of all the data in its organization. From datasets on a colleague’s laptop, to machine or infrastructure loggings (IoT), from KPI’s to external reporting – all aspects needed to be considered.

Now why is this relevant? Becoming knowledge-based demands a structured way of handling data. If you do not know where to find your data, or do not have the same definition of that data, you are not able to make your data sellable. In other words: Data governance and data ownership need to be in place. The GDPR legislation is only strengthening this need.

From relying on heroes to a clear data vision

My client used to rely on heroes in the company, knowing about the data. As relevant knowledge was in the minds of only a few employees, the room for improvement was limited. Data was everywhere, nobody had a complete overview of what data was collected where – or with what purpose. In addition, there was no clear vision on who was using the data, when or why.

Responsibilities were often unclear, leading into vague data requests and fuzzy queries. One example was found in defining the number of customers – where Finance would use a different definition from Marketing and Sales. Several definitions led to several numbers. Not one could answer this question straight. What was needed was visibility around key roles – with mandate, to make them responsible for retrieving the right data based on transparent definitions.

Enabling the data transformation toward ownership

So, how did the company transform from an organization backed by implicit data usage and local heroes into a digital, data-driven, company that is in control?

  1. Staying close to ‘normal’ governance; by keeping the Management Team accountable (and not creating new meetings).
  2. Defining data domain-based roles; by creating data stewards with mandate without the need for a formal reorganization.
  3. Extending the data stewards’ mandate to end-to-end responsibility; by installing a transparent, single point of contact for the organization. In this way, requests for help from B2B, B2C, Offerings and Finance all had one single point of contact.
  4. Making data stewards responsible for their own data domain; in doing this the quality of data usage was rising. Data owners’ job description entailed reporting to the Management Team and the Data Board. Responsibilities included: developing glossaries, storing uniform data in an equal format, improving the retrievability of data and making data transparent and compliant.

What made the transformation successful was ownership. As the Data Steward was not taking over, Data Governance aimed at ensuring that employees were emphasizing their responsibility more efficiently and effectively. Along the transformation of the company, application of data into insights were successfully improved. All in all, by implementing Data Governance, the bottleneck for the digital transformation of the client was removed, our client became in control of its data and GDPR compliancy was realized.

In my next post I’ll explain how you can optimize your business with assisted decision-making.

This is one article in a series of publications on your organizations’ Data Analytics strategy. The series, called ‘Moving beyond point solutions and pilots in Data Analytics’ addresses several challenges. These are challenges that organizations most experience when they want to upgrade their Data Analytics from point solutions to strategic, data-driven and coherent governed activities.

This series has been written by my team at Atos Consulting: Carline Nauta, Erik Schroten, Tom Konings, Gerli Meijerink and Sjoerd Rieske.

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