Data Governance

What is Data Governance?

Data underpins key organisational capabilities - decision making, performance management, product development, customer engagement and automation. As data volumes explode, implementing robust data governance becomes pivotal to extract value, while minimising risks. This article examines why sound data governance merits board oversight along with leading practices.


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Why Is Data Importat to an Organisation?

Data and analytics offer crucial competitive advantages:

Informed decision making - Insightful analysis of operations, markets and trends guides strategy.

Enhanced forecasting - Predictive analytics and modeling sharpen planning.

Customer engagement - Tailored interactions and experiences build engagement.

Efficient operations - Analytics optimises processes and asset performance.

Product and service improvement - Behavioral data fuels innovation.

New business models - Monetisation of data powers business evolution.

However, low quality data severely impedes the strategic potential. Elevating data governance mitigates this threat.

Key Areas of Data Governance

While tailored to each business, data governance commonly spans:

Data Quality - Ensuring accurate, timely and complete data. Profiling examines completeness.

Data Lifecycle - Managing sourcing, storage, protection, uses, sharing and deletion protocols.

Metadata Management - Cataloging data context, definitions, interrelationships, lineage and usage.

Data Security - Protecting confidentiality and privacy with access controls and encryption.

Data Architecture - Designing efficient technical infrastructure for data flows and workloads.

Data Literacy - Enabling workforce skills in data analysis, interpretation and visualisation.

Ethical Data Usage - Responsible usage respecting human rights, fairness and societal impacts.

Effective data governance aligns to strategic analytics objectives.

How Does a Board of Directors Elevate Data Governance?

Useful board governance approaches include:

  • Seeking management updates on data governance frameworks, policies and controls.
  • Monitoring key data quality, lineage and security metrics.
  • Overseeing mitigation of data-related risks like privacy breaches or misleading analytics.
  • Assessing data utilisation in strategy development and performance monitoring.
  • Reviewing data-driven innovation in products, services and business models.
  • Evaluating executive accountability for data governance outcomes.
  • Ensuring ethical guidelines govern use of AI and analytics.

Proactive board engagement strengthens data governance foundations and strategic exploitation.

What is the Role of the Audit Committee in Data Governance?

Given overlapping focus on risk, controls and reliability of information used in reporting and analytics, the audit committee assumes leadership in data governance oversight like IT governance. The audit chair is well positioned to spearhead governance improvements.

What is the Chief Data Officer?

While ultimate accountability resides with the CEO, boards increasingly interact with a dedicated chief data officer (CDO) spearheading data governance frameworks. The CDO role focuses on elevating data quality, protection, lifecycle management and strategic utilisation.

What is a Data Governance Review?

Boards may periodically undertake formal data governance reviews to gauge effectiveness similar to IT governance audits. External experts provide independent perspectives on the adequacy of strategies, policies, controls, tools, metrics and organisational accountabilities designed to optimise data value. Findings inform board guidance to strengthen data discipline.

How Does Data Governance Factor in to Risk Discussions?

Board risk oversight necessarily extends to data governance risks including:

Data quality risk - Faulty data used in critical decision making and reporting.

Data security and privacy risk - Breaches, unauthorised access and cyber attacks.

Unethical data use risks - Reputation, discrimination and human rights impacts.

Data infrastructure risks - Inadequate capacity, performance and reliability.

Robust mitigation backed by sound data risk culture protects organisational interests.

Enhancing Data Literacy

Directors protect their oversight effectiveness by seeking continual enhancement of data fluency and analytics acumen. Developing understanding of data types, reporting techniques, visualisation, machine learning and AI governance prepares boards to probe data reliance in strategy and operations. Expert briefings, conferences, online learning and data immersion sessions provide ongoing education.


As data grows exponentially in importance for competitive success, strengthening data governance becomes a leadership imperative. Boards promoting management accountability, risk governance, ethics and strategic data exploitation can unlock lasting value. Forward-looking data governance transforms an operational obligation into strategic opportunity.

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