The ability to access and leverage data to drive business value may sound like a no-brainer for creating competitive advantage. But in today’s complex and siloed global enterprise, where big data is the order of the day, putting data into the hands of the business users who need it for critical decision-making has become a challenge.

The problem is that big data is so vast and hidden within independent business departments, functions and/or processes that organizing it for analysis is no easy task. Consequently, big data analytics can be biased and missing context, since they’re based on convenience samples or subsets defined by those disparate groups across the organization.

The Value of Data Governance Alongside Big Data

To address this issue, companies need to have a data governance process in place that enables data to be governed across all silos and presented in a meaningful way that generates the most value -- just the way a business user needs it.

Without knowing what data you have, what it means, who uses it, what it is for, and how good it is, an enterprise will never have the insights and information needed to operate effectively. Instead of an afterthought, data governance needs to be front and center in the organizational effort to harness the power of its data.

Data governance enables the organization to take care of the data it has, get more value from that data, and make important aspects of that data visible to users. It also provides capabilities to manage these aspects. This is critical not only because of errors and omissions for existing data, but because new uses of data often require new attributes and therefore new metadata to support them.

So what’s the true value of data governance?

Data governance is about enabling and encouraging good behavior regarding data, and limiting behaviors that create risks. This is the same whether you are in a big data environment or a traditional data management environment. What’s needed in any environment is the ability for organizations to identify who is responsible for the data, collaborate to set policies and make decisions, create explicit agreements about how the data is used and what it is for, understand where certain metrics and information are derived, and determine the business impact of changes to data.

How Big Data Affects the Data Governance Strategy

There are seven key truths about big data that change previous understanding of data governance. Each of these requires a new approach to governing the data assets effectively. (See our slideshow on The Seven Truths for Governing Big Data for Business Success)

Driving Big Data Governance Success

In the end, these processes are designed to make an organization more agile and capable – equipping business users with the ability to use data as and when they need it, add to it, and manage it more effectively than ever before.

A big data environment is not just tables, files and streams. There are many different types of assets that organizations use to deliver high performance, predictive analysis, and unique insights. These include analytical models, map/reduce jobs, queries, visualizations, reports and any artifact that uses the data. Effective data governance lets businesses know what you have, and find that knowledge in many different ways.

(About the author: Stan Christiaens is co-founder and chief technology officer of data governance firm Collibra)

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