Data governance continues to be an area of concern in many enterprises. This year's Data Governance Annual Conference organized by Wilshire Conferences and DebTech International saw roughly the same level of attendance as 2008 - quite an achievement in the recession. Perhaps the interest in data governance is because of the economic downturn, but there are other straws in the wind. My friends at the Enterprise Data Management Council tell me that financial industry regulators, both here and in Europe, have suddenly taken a great interest in data governance after years of paying little attention to the topic.

As encouraging as all this is, my experience is rather different. I find that enterprises understand the need for data governance but are unwilling to implement an additional layer of bureaucracy to achieve it. There is no doubt that the current problems in the financial industry are partially to blame for this. All of the culprits in the financial meltdown had long-established, well-developed and strongly funded risk management. In the years since the NASDAQ bubble, Enron's bankruptcy, Sarbanes-Oxley and so on, the governance, risk and compliance functions have grown large and ever more intrusive. Apparently, they did not work too well. Trying to sell data governance has become more difficult just as the need for it has become generally more accepted.Does implementing a data governance program always have to mean establishing a burdensome set of rules and a bureaucracy to administer it? I would submit that there is an alternative way to implement data governance based on principles rather than policies and rules.

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