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What Is Data Governance? Here's What You Need to Know.

Have you ever been part of a large corporate IT project that got all kinds of attention during implementation and launch, only to die on the vine a few months later?

Many companies don't need to look past their own web site. Everyone pays attention to it in the design phase. Everyone wants a say in how the home page looks. Every department wants a chunk of home page real estate. And no one will turn down a fist-bump or beer when it launches.

Flip the calendar ahead seven or eight months. How is that corporate blog looking? When was the last news item added? Does the About page still accurately describe the company?

Web sites are just the most visible example of a project that gets a lot of attention at the start and then withers away after launch. Other, less visible, IT projects suffer similar fates.

Take blockchain. According to a report from Deloitte, of the more than 9,000 blockchain projects developed on GitHub by organizations in 2016, 85 percent were inactive by the next fall.

In other words, creating something is fun. Maintaining it is not.

That's why you need a governance model for your internal IT projects. What is a data governance model?

Governance, in this context, is formalizing a structure and a plan with the goal of ensuring a project gets post-launch attention, updates, and maintenance.

In other words, it is an insurance policy against disrepair and neglect, however many companies — even large organizations who deal with sensitive information — are still operating without such a policy. A PwC study from 2016 found that many banks in Europe were operating without clear guidelines for data governance, while a 2017 study found hospitals in the U.S., struggling with limited resources, were failing to implement data governance plans.

A data governance plan would map out the lifecycle of all the data elements and ensure each one has an owner at each stage. If something goes awry with the data, the owner (or "steward") of that data is responsible for identifying and fixing the root cause of the problem that created the data quality issue and for correcting downstream issues caused by bad data. The plan also includes data retention policies to govern how data is managed or archived over time.

big-data-governance-blogGovernance Models

That might sound complicated, but it is a simple way of maintaining systems, platforms, and data. Here are three common models of governance.


In the centralized model, a core team is responsible for data governance across the organization. This includes developing standards and procedures, selecting and managing tools and templates, and monitoring data governance adherence across the organization.

A centralized governance model has the advantages of standardization, higher focus, and concentrated skill sets. A challenge with this model is that it's a top-down approach. Oftentimes, the Centralized Data Governance team has challenges with enforcement at the business/functional level because they lack authority.


In a decentralized model, data-related responsibilities reside within functional areas within the enterprise (e.g. Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc.) Each member of the team takes responsibility for specific areas of content or functionality within their domain.

Owners are closer to the action in this model, which offers the advantages of better aligning data content to business needs, a lower overhead cost, and increased subject-matter-expert input. Potential risks within this model include rogue areas that "do their own thing" without regard to organizational standards, processes, etc.


As you would suspect, the hybrid model is a combination of Centralized (e.g. a Data Governance COE) and De-Centralized. Advantages to this model is that corporate standards and processes are adhered to while enabling agility and taking advantage of domain-level expertise.

You Insure Your Facilities. Why Not Your Data?

You may be new to the term "Governance Plan", but I'm guessing your company isn't new to the idea. Consider any corporate asset you have: vehicles, big equipment and facilities, for example.

You don't invest in these then run them into the ground with no structure or plan for maintenance, upkeep, repairs, and eventual rebuilding or replacing.

Don't treat your data assets any differently.

If you’re building or buying something, you want to make sure it’s well-maintained. That’s what we do — we just build a solution and leave town. We create governance plans so that our solutions work long after we’re gone.

If you need a plan for governance, give us a call. We're happy to come out and do some white boarding with you.


Woman with laptop: Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Eric Evans

About Author Eric Evans

Eric has spent his career leading large client-consultant teams, managing multi-year engagements, budgeting, estimating, and recruiting to the needs of his clients. Currently, he oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth and add to the bottom line of Omni. He has worked with multiple Fortune 500 clients with a focus towards bringing business value to all levels of the organization. In addition to being a dynamic leader, Eric has been a manager or people, an architect, a programmer, a project manager, a steel salesman and a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army.


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