What is Data Governance?

Making your company truly data-driven. This article will explain fundamentals and know-how in relation to Data Governance.


Jatin Solanki

March 24, 2023

Making your company truly data-driven

Disclaimer: This article is not written using Chatgpt :)

I never imagined that my journey as a data engineer would eventually lead me to start a data observability company. But as I look back on my experiences, I see how gaining exposure to data has been a constant thread throughout my career, guiding me to where I am today. Serendipity is not just a fancy word but also a satisfying feeling!

As a data guy, at the beginning of my career, I focused solely on building systems to collect and process data. However, handling sensitive information was always tricky — a fact every person working in data can empathize with. I realized that simply having the technology to collect data, build ETL pipelines, and then use data for modeling & prediction was of no use when data governance principles were not enforced within an organization.

My team and I would spend long exhausting hours troubleshooting issues where the culprit would mostly be “bad data”.

“Data is unreliable, data is missing, data is inaccurate’ was a common dialogue for us.”

Ensuring that data is ethically and securely in accordance with industry regulations was and is of importance in every organization. Effective data governance ensures that data is consistent and trustworthy and doesn’t get misused. And being a dreamer, I always dreamt of a super simple platform that helps data engineers solve data quality issues at a lightning speed.

This is where my interest in data governance or observability grew multifold. I learned that data governance was more than just data security — it was about ensuring that data was used in a responsible and controlled manner throughout its lifecycle. In fact, I have seen the consequences of poor data governance, such as data breaches leading to business loss.

The overall concept of data governance may sound very basic but it’s often overlooked especially when companies are just starting out. Apart from failing to build a data infrastructure, they often overlook the data security aspect of their business as well.

The importance of data governance has only increased with the rise of new technologies. As a strong advocate for healthy data governance practices, I envision a future where data is used responsibly and ethically, to the benefit of both businesses and their customers.

So, let us understand what is data governance and why you need it?

If we go by the book’s meaning of it, data governance is a set of processes and policies that govern the collection, storage, use, and dissemination of an organization’s data.

Let’s go one by one on what data governance means:

  • Data Quality Management: Data needs to be accurate, consistent, and free of errors. For example, an organization may implement data quality checks to validate that customer addresses are correctly formatted before they are stored in the company’s database.
  • Data Security and Privacy: Implement measures to protect data from unauthorized access and breaches. Plus, ensure you’re complying with privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Data Retention and Disposal: Establish policies for how long data should be kept and when it should be deleted or disposed of, in accordance with legal requirements and best practices. In short, it’s all about adding rules to the stored data.
  • Data Access and Usage: Define who has access to data and how it can be used, in line with the organization’s data governance policies. For example, a company may restrict access to sensitive customer data to only those employees who have a valid business reason for using it.

The implementation of effective data governance policies and procedures helps organizations to avoid the costly consequences of poor data management, such as data breaches and loss of customer trust. It can also help to ensure regulatory compliance and promote the responsible and ethical use of data.

But why do we need data governance?

Companies have faced massive fines and damage to their reputation due to data breaches and the misuse of customer information.

Here are a few occurrences:
In 2018, a marketing and data aggregation company based in Florida called Exactis made a major mistake that had far-reaching consequences. They left a database with personal information on nearly 340 million people on a server that anyone could access. This information included people’s phone numbers, addresses, email addresses, interests, and details about their families, including the number, age, and gender of their children.

Thankfully, a security expert discovered the breach and brought it to the public’s attention. We are talking about millions of adults’ and businesses’ data being exposed. This example highlights the importance of proper data governance and the serious consequences that can occur when personal information is not properly secured.

By now you must have understood the importance of data governance. It’s undoubtedly relevant to all companies, regardless of size or industry. Every company collects and uses data in some way, and without proper governance, this data is at risk of being misused, lost, or stolen. In addition, new regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) require companies to be more transparent about how they use personal data. So if you are in a company or have a company, there’s no escape from enforcing good data practices. Either the hackers or the Government will be knocking on your door when it gets too late. And I personally wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

So how to implement data governance?

Let us break down each step (we data folks like it that way):

  • Develop a Data Governance Policy: A comprehensive data governance policy outlines the guidelines, procedures, and standards for collecting, processing, storing, and using data within an organization. It should include data retention schedules, data security protocols, and privacy policies.
  • Appoint a Data Governance Team: The team should include representatives from various departments within the organization, including IT, legal, and compliance. The team should be responsible for managing and enforcing the data governance policy.
  • Establish Data Management Procedures: Procedures for data management should include data classification, data protection, and data backup and recovery. The procedures should be communicated to all employees and regularly reviewed and updated.
  • Implement Data Security Measures: This includes measures to protect against data breaches, such as encryption, firewalls, and access controls. Data security should be a priority, and all employees should be trained on security best practices.
  • Monitor and Evaluate Data Governance: Regular monitoring and evaluation of data governance policies and procedures are essential to ensure that they remain effective and up-to-date. This includes monitoring for potential data breaches, reviewing privacy policies, and conducting regular audits to assess the overall effectiveness of data governance.
  • My favorite: Use simple, seamless, hassle-free data observability tools that help with improving the efficiency of data management by reducing data quality issues and boosting data reliability. There are so many good tools out there such as Monte Carlo, Databand, Acceldata. And if you’re looking for Southeast Asia’s first data observability tool, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial here.

Data governance and observability are essential for all organizations. Implementing effective data governance policies and procedures can help to protect against data breaches, ensure regulatory compliance, and maintain customer trust.

So, whether you’re a busy business leader or a cool data person, now is the time to start thinking about data governance. Don’t wait until it’s too late — protect your company, and your customers by taking control of your data today.

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