Today, data is the firm. It fuels digital transformation, and it does so at a time when the rate of change is dramatic.

Companies that stand still risk being overwhelmed, however for those that act there are great opportunities for renewal and new success.

By taking a more commercial approach to data, businesses can discover opportunities for new business models, for new processes, new users and use cases around data, new applications, and new architectures.

In order to take advantage of these opportunities business needs to rethink its approach to data governance.

Think of this new approach as intelligent data governance.

The old way of working involved top down policing. But realistically when has rigid policing ever enabled a transformation of the firm. Such an approach is certainly not enabling.

The old approach to data governance is also singularly focused on the “things” of data. Governance teams have produced a lot of data artefacts, data definitions, data policies, and data frameworks without really understanding why.

Too often they failed to ask what is really in use, what is relevant, what it is used for and this new value in data.

It is a challenging idea for many who have built careers in traditional governance, but there’s zero value in data. There’s only value in its application.

The opportunities that exist do so only because of how data can be used. This is why business leader do not “speak data”, they have different at lens.

Here’s another warning sign; Is your measure of successful data governance more data governance?

A new approach

The new governance is different. It’s enabling, it’s connected.

Top down and bottom up are old paradigms. They lack relevance in the modern era.

Today business isn’t a graph, it’s a network. This calls for a new and inclusive way of working.

In any business we all see data. And we all, in a few clicks, should be able to discover the data we have, how it is relevant to the firm.

This is the key issue; We don’t need our data people to be more informed or better equipped around data. We need everyone in the firm to be better informed and more equipped.

Data exists for a reason in a company, if you don’t understand the business usage or business relevance, how are you going to unlock the value?

What does success look like?

In a company that applies intelligence to its data governance, data is no longer an afterthought. Instead it’s a responsible way of working.

In such a business data alignment and reuse become the default way of working. Rather than governance adding to the chaos, it adds to better understanding.

To do this intelligently, greater collaboration is needed. No one discipline can deliver success. The business instead needs to align around the process with stakeholders drawn from IT, compliance and the business.


One of the reasons why GDPR is such a blessing is because it insists that you understand what you are doing with the data. That means decisions can no longer be left to the data teams or the IT department as this new approach speaks to utility, not process. Indeed, the importance of context in the world of GDPR insists upon wider and greater collaboration.

As data professionals we definitely need to be more integrated in all the efforts. Policies, once defined, need to be merged with the reality of operational efforts.

With enough context around the data business can act with authority to lead in a world of constant change.

About the author

Patrick Dewald is a senior director, data governance, at Informatica, which is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members provide their insights and analysis for the benefit of our readers. Membership fees apply.


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