Why do people quietly run for the exits when they hear the words “data governance?” 

I’ve seen it many times. The trepidation is real. It feels daunting. It is by no measure a small project. Implementing a data governance framework across a large organization can be measured in years, not months or quarters.

And yet data governance continues to rise in importance. The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CPAA) are both clear signals of the greater regulation that’s coming for data usage and data management. Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have worked under tight data regulations for years, but retail organizations as a whole, to choose one example, have yet to fully awaken to the implications of closely governing and implementing data security protocols for their data and that of their customers. 

Data-driven cultures require governance

Data governance isn’t an optional add-on for a successful data culture, but a core component of developing one. Standardized guidance and principles are essential to determine:

  • how to use data
  • where to store data
  • how to label data
  • how to access data
  • how to update data
  • what to do in case of a data breach
  • how to look for data bias

All of those processes fall under data governance, the direction for which needs to come from the top. It starts with a strategy but it also requires a lot of education.

The importance of data governance strategy

Although it is up to leadership to set the direction, they don't have to do it alone. Many people on staff, whether individuals or committees, are happy to help them develop and implement a data governance strategy. And as long as you set expectations accordingly, understand the timeline, and take one step at a time, ideally identifying the low-hanging fruit first, you’ll increase your success rate.

To get started, think about some data standards you can implement now that most individuals in the organization are already using, even if they’re not yet formalized. Think about what your objectives are, where you want to see the organization in five years in relation to data usage, and map out what has to happen into a data governance framework.

Implementing a data governance program really works best one step at a time, which means it’s not an overnight transformation. What data leaders do need to understand, however, is that it’s not just another initiative. Data governance is a cultural shift, and it’s built on strong data literacy and strong leadership from the top.