Data governance in a gig economy

Everyone knows (or at least they should) that data is an important asset for businesses. However, the business world is in a state of flux in a few different ways. One such change is the “gig economy.”

This term describes a paradigm shift in the way that we staff our businesses; it represents a shift away from a long-term, stable, full-time, employee-driven workforce toward a more dynamic one that relies heavily on short-term contractors or independent workers.

>See also: What to do with all that data… why data governance is no longer optional

The question as that transition occurs becomes, “How does this model impact how we manage and govern our data assets?” It’s a good question, and the answer might not be what you expect.

Data more important; so is governance

In the gig economy, the human power that drives critical business activities is more fluid than under traditional staffing models. Each individual participant is not fungible (some clearly perform better than others), so there is typically a mechanism to select for top performers and increase engagement with them while decreasing engagement with those on the opposite end of the performance spectrum. One might think, based on this, that the role of data becomes more fluid and transient in line with the staffing model. This is not the case.

Instead, data increases in importance. It is the data that we have about participants in a given ecosystem that allow us to rapidly assign and transition tasks from resource to resource; it also allows us to measure how each participant performs.

It drives how businesses engage with their ecosystem, how entities within that ecosystem interact with each other, and enforces the framework within which those players operate. Quite literally, it is what makes everything work.

>See also: Gaining business value through the “Amazon-ification” of data

This means that the approach that we have to governing data becomes more critical as well. Can you imagine a viable ride-sharing application (like Uber or Lyft) where the data was unreliable? If we didn’t know exactly where passengers needed to be picked up or dropped off? If there was no way to tell who were reliable drivers or passengers? If we couldn’t keep track of where we went or how much it cost?

Of course not, right? This means that establishing reliable, resilient and holistic governance processes for data becomes a success factor for organisations in the gig economy. It is both differentiator and competitive advantage.

Safeguarding competitive advantage

Technology governance, at its core, is about delivering value to stakeholders; it means establishing structures such that stakeholder value is maximised, and so that the risk equation is “optimised” (i.e. balanced) so that the most return is realised within defined, understood, and accepted risk parameters.

In the case of data, the situation is no different. Data governance means that we have systematic mechanisms to ensure we’re getting the most value from the data available and that we understand (and balance) the risks that could arise from how we handle, store, or transmit it.

How does one accomplish that? It starts with a systematic understanding of what your goals are – what your stakeholders want and need – and how can data help them accomplish those things? It also means establishing a process to manage and measure your risk, and a mechanism for making sure that those risks are tracked.

>See also: The era of increased data protection rules

Frameworks and standards, such as COBIT 5, that focus on governance can help you get there, but the road starts by recognising the power of data, establishing the organisational will to take action to address it systematically and holistically, and becoming educated about the options available to you to help. Boards and c-suite leaders should take the lead in establishing this is an organisational priority.

The upshot? Data governance is important generally (and becoming more so as organisations become increasingly reliant on data), but it’s even more important in the gig economy.  For those firms, data is like gasoline for an automobile engine: it’s what makes everything move, and it’s the single most important resource available to them. As such, it’s too important to leave to chance.


Sourced from Ed Moyle, director of Thought Leadership and Research at ISACA

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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