In order to be judged worthwhile, data governance projects should be signposted with clear business objectives and a defined return on investment, says Anne Lapkin, an information management expert at research firm Gartner.
“You really have to start way upfront in expressing what positive business outcomes you’re looking for,” she says. “This is the thing that justifies to people why they have to do things differently.”
Rather than working to yardsticks such as quantitative improvements in the quality or security of data, she continues, organisations should look at the broader business goals, such as fewer compliance breaches or increases in cross-selling opportunities, that can be achieved through tighter governance.
Achieving regulatory compliance is still the main driver for data governance, says Adrian Gregory, CEO of the DQM Group, and the growing power of data protection regulators is only compounding this effect.
“The Information Commissioner’s Office [ICO] has been given a lot more power to fine – up to £500,000,” he explains. “Now the government is now being driven by Europe to give it even more power.”
But another driver to the adoption of data governance, Gregory and others note, is a growing realisation that data is a valuable asset. Many businesses are, for example, gradually catching on to the cross-selling opportunities that arise when information is governed better. “They are thinking not only about how they protect data, but also about how they can grow its value,” Gregory says.
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Set up a data council