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Data Governance in the Digital Economy

Apr 19, 2021 2:46:00 PM

Data governance describes the process that oversees the management of the availability, integrity, security, and usability of data within enterprises. The purpose is to implement policies designed to ensure the quality of data and its usability across systems. The broad spectrum of data governance means that it penetrates every aspect of business operations, particularly as digitization takes hold. 

As the role of data increases in importance, proper data governance is now essential for businesses for several reasons: 

  • Government Regulations: At the macro-level, governments and authorities worldwide are implementing a series of regulations aimed at protecting citizens’ privacy. One of the better-known examples is the EU’s sweeping GDPR, which impacts any company that has done business within the EU. Falling foul such regulations can lead to fines and bans. 

  • Business Operations: In the digital era, high-quality data is the bedrock of automated processes. A robust set of governance policies will ensure the data is accurate and relevant to the business, stripping away duplicates and errors. It also supports analysis and performance monitoring in real-time and helps leaders make better decisions in a timely manner. 

  • Usability: It is essential to have guidance on how the data is stored and formatted so all workers can access and use them. Having a consistent set of policies on data will ensure usability across the organization.

  • Security: The security element is two-fold: 

      • Customer Data: As outlined by government regulations, companies have an ethical and legal responsibility to ensure customer data is protected. 

      • Confidential Business Data: With more data than ever being stored in the cloud and online, businesses must protect sensitive information. 


A key component of data governance is to build a secure infrastructure and storage for the data to move through. Striking a balance between accessibility and security is a challenge that all businesses need to meet. With oversight and the right tools, companies are increasingly rising to the task and achieving the goal of data security. 

With these elements in play, it is clear that data governance is an integral part of any digitized business. By retaining complete oversight over the data and processes, companies can maintain consistency across their operations. Ensuring those high standards are met, teams will then be able to take advantage of accurate, clean, and high-quality data. 


The Four Pillars of Data Governance 

Following the four pillars offers a pathway to a coherent, detailed data governance strategy. While the terms may vary, the principles behind the pillars remain constant: 

  • Policies and Processes 
  • Accountability and Responsibilities 
  • Technology 
  • Handling Metadata 


Policies and Processes 

Policies is the component that keeps the data strategy in line. Without clear guidance, chaos could ensue. A well-defined set of policies leads to smooth processes across the organization and efficient data handling. The purpose is to implement a strategy that enables a company to achieve its objectives.  

Within those policies, there will be a set of standards that need to be met, covering data quality, data management, and security. Procedures and processes across the organization would then follow this, so those high standards are maintained. 

The data governance policy should also future-proof the data, ensuring it can be used in the digital era and support automated processes. Combining high-quality data with innovation and automation will lay the platform for strong growth through the next decade. 

Accountability and Responsibilities 

The implementation of policies and procedures still depends on human input. It is essential to have a clearly defined set of roles and positions within the company. By formalizing the governance of data with a team structure, the organization will hold the decision-makers accountable. 

Placing people in those vital decision-making positions also enables companies to adjust to the continually evolving landscape of data management. As technology innovates and data’s capability grows, the rules of the game will change over time - and the governance team needs to be able to act accordingly. 


Data and technology go hand-in-hand. The rising importance and capabilities of data are tied in with technology’s ability to harness it fully. Data analysis, management, and security tools allow companies to proactively utilize data to increase productivity and profits.  

The fast-moving nature of technological innovation necessitates a data governance strategy to manage the tools and resources to maximize data use. For instance, security constantly faces new challenges that can threaten any business, and new solutions are continually being invented to deal with those threats. The job of the governance team is to ensure the company has the best possible tools for success. 

Another to consider is integration. APIs have been around for over a decade, but their capabilities have skyrocketed in recent times. With the right tools, such as advanced API management platforms, businesses can streamline data control and retain operational oversight. 


When it comes to metadata, it is critical to understand the fundamental role it plays in data management. As TechTarget describes: 

“Metadata is data that describes other data. Meta is a prefix that -- in most information technology usages -- means “an underlying definition or description.” Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier.” 

In essence, metadata makes data searchable, traceable, and workable. In terms of data governance, each of these elements are essential. For example, metadata can describe file formats, sizes, and sources, making them easier to find and track back to the original file owner. This enables companies to validate file - and data - accuracy. 

According to leading tech consultants at Deloitte, technical metadata content will be “instrumental in managing, overseeing, and measuring the data governance processes of tomorrow.”  


Data Governance - Preparing for the Digital Era 

In some ways, the term “digital governance” can be somewhat misleading, potentially giving the impression it is primarily about ethics. While protecting privacy and data security are two essential components of data governance, it is also about producing high-quality data that supports business operations. 

As the digital economy continues to grow apace, the role of data is only going to become ever more critical in the future. Companies need to ensure they are looking after their data, effectively the fuel of digitized businesses. Data governance gives teams opportunity to work with accurate, up to date, and workable data that can be used with the latest technology. 

Companies with coherent, robust data governance will be prepared for the digital revolution that’s already underway. 

Peter Edlund

Written by Peter Edlund