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4 key elements to a successful data governance strategy

Does your executive team understand the importance of data management in today’s IT environment?

In short, of course they do. Data management is at the crux of today’s businesses. Externally, customers want to engage with businesses that guarantee data is protected, while internally, business leaders rely on data to update sales strategies, create targeted marketing campaigns, inform customer retention programs, and more.

But does your executive team understand exactly how data management works and the best practices and strategies to guarantee data is always safeguarded? Well…here it gets a little tricky. Despite its importance to business success, data management – particularly when it comes to backup and protection – can often be an afterthought.

Organizational leadership often underestimates the time, budget and effort that go into protecting their data. And because leadership teams are often preoccupied with time and budget, they can be hesitant to invest that time and budget into adopting the best data management strategies.

But those who work directly with the data rely on solid backup and protection strategies to enhance their job performance and efficiency. This disconnect can be frustrating to data managers who experience lags in their work day if, for example, a power outage occurs and they are left without access to data for an extended time.

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To bridge this gap, data managers can take action to better educate leadership on the importance of data management. And when data managers collaborate to present a case for it, it’s likely execs will understand and follow suit, leading to improved data quality and increased business opportunities. But where does it all start?

There are four key questions data managers should present to business leaders to begin strategizing a data governance policy.

To get the best answers, ask the right questions

To start, a CIO or Chief Data Officer (CDO) is responsible for implementing these strategies, but they may not work closely enough with the data to understand the importance of a solid governance strategy. Data analysts and managers are responsible for shedding light on the reasons why the C-suite should invest in better data management and protection.

Sometimes the best way to bring these reasons to light is to make apparent what they may not know by asking questions – especially when those questions address concerns around risk and cost.

When making a case, there are four specific questions that can guide executives to understand the knowledge they may be lacking when it comes to data stewardship:

1. What's most important in your organization's data? The answer to this question isn’t as important as the conversation that stems from it. A business leader could value any aspect of data the organization collects, but what’s important is showing them the value of the data and then segue from there into a conversation about proper management.

2. Where is your organization's data stored? The answer to this question may be a multi-part answer, with businesses storing data across multiple locations including cloud, on premise and hybrid environments. A savvy business leader knows the answer to this question, but when you follow up with the next question they may not be as clued in…

3. How is your organization's data protected? Understanding the backup and recovery process may trip up even the most experienced executives. They know it’s there but may have never thought about how well it works and how it can be improved. Additionally, they may not even have the basic knowledge of how many copies of the data exist, how long they keep the copies or who has access to the data.

4. How is your organization's data secured? In addition to how it’s protected, executives may not even fully understand how they are securing data. Businesses have a large number of ways to ensure they are keeping customers’ data under lock and key including a secure disaster recovery plan, storing data in offsite siloes/warehouses, or investing in container technology.

These four questions typically expose some gaps of knowledge the executive has and makes the importance of a sound governance strategy clearer. The cost and risk associated with storing data copies can be an attractive enough reason for leaders to move towards more stringent data governance. Storing extraneous data can cost an organization unnecessary money, and losing this data, especially if sensitive, can shroud a business in an avoidable scandal.

Ensuring leaders understand they are responsible for their organization’s data and managing that data is not the sole duty of IT staff can lead to a stronger data stewardship program.

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