Steven Alder
Steven Alder
Smart companies are looking more intently at what it takes to better control their policies around data management, not only today, but five or even 15 years into the future.

That's why organizations are initiating a formal governance approach. Governance helps get people together to put a policy in place to provide oversight and help ensure that data is handled appropriately, that those with access are involved at the right time, and that organizational leaders can make informed decisions to adhere to their policies and reduce risk.

As more and more business-critical operations move online, IT is pressured to manage and control the data that resides within a company, as well as exchanged from the company to business partners. Three fundamental governing powers are required. A company must define the ability and authority for its appointed leaders to penalize, subsidize and organize data and the users who access it.

Data needs to be centralized, with its use strictly controlled within legal and regulatory boundaries. Organizations that lack a C-level executive in charge of making this happen won't likely get the cross-organizational attention needed for a successful program. They risk facing expensive lawsuits that erode trust in the company and, before they know it, will fall behind their competition.

Getting started with a data governance program involves the following steps: identify executive sponsorship to empower a governance council; embody the governance council with a functional structure and charter to build consistent governing roles; create data and risk stewards to instill custodial obligations in everyone who works with data; define business drivers and integrate a governance strategy into the business culture; be realistic with organizational challenges, funding requirements, scope and duration of deliverables; and measure results that deliver impact, value, and reduced risk.

Business leaders should realize that data governance is their fiduciary responsibility. They should organize their efforts to report results to their board of directors, and begin building their own data governance boards today to gain experience and better prepare for dramatic new challenges tomorrow.