Data governance. It is not a term that typically makes people sit up and take notice. On the contrary, it usually evokes a mix of fear and confusion in customers and is often seen as a barrier to progress when embarking on a data project.

But as Wilson Allen’s lead expert in Data Sciences, James Baldassarra, explains, the increased appetite for data amongst law firms, legal departments, and the wider corporate sector has thrown data governance into the spotlight. Rather than addressing what it is—as it can take many forms—he explores data governance’s significance by discussing what benefits it can bring to an organization.

A recent survey asked Chief Data Officers (CDOs) to vote on their top data governance priorities. The results are telling:

  • Process improvements and increasing efficiencies – 59%
  • Boosting business outcomes – 55%
  • Data-enabled decision-making – 54%
  • Risk mitigation – 52%
  • Delivering and determining value – 41%

In short, the benefits data governance can bring are vast.

Unsurprisingly, CDOs see process improvements and increased efficiencies as the top priority. Any data initiative needs to deliver a return on investment, particularly in the early stages, as it raises the profile of this activity within an organization.

Addressing governance around transactional data points used to facilitate business to streamline legacy processes and deliver efficiency is often the number one goal of the data strategies that we help to formulate for our customers.

Boosting business outcomes, improving data-enabled decision-making and delivering better value are part of the same conversation. Using data to achieve these goals requires availability and assured quality of data provided in a consumable, actionable format.

Governance at this point includes ensuring there is ownership, an agreed taxonomy, master record definition and the appropriate technology in place to help govern and deliver these outcomes to those who create content and those who consume it.

Risk mitigation is always a lightbulb moment when discussing data with our customers. They know that thinking about data holistically rather than as silos reveals interesting insights. But this giving of access changes the conversation from one of innovation to one of managing risk. Once data is more readily available to more consumers, data quality, sensitivity, availability and the organizational changes that may be required to mitigate these areas of risk need to be considered.

Cultural and technological changes relating to data typically require a review of the organizational structure. Many businesses are steeped in technical expertise relating to their systems and legacy technologies which is valuable. Still, experience in more modern approaches to cloud architecture relating specifically to data and analytics is required in most cases.

At most organizations, data governance is a discipline that has been underinvested in, and CDOs identify resource deficits as the number one data governance obstacle. This is mainly down to culture and a lack of understanding of what data governance brings to a business. Traditionally, little thought was given to the ownership, quality or taxonomy applied to the data sources within an organization. However, a growing appetite for data is significantly re-prioritizing this area, and law firms and corporates now realize they can raise data governance to an enterprise level with additional resources and expertise.

Governance isn’t something to fear. On the contrary, it is a critical component of future data initiatives. The better governance is addressed across known sources and a process established to onboard new data sources, the better data quality can be guaranteed. As a result, it is possible to make data available more efficiently without sacrificing trust or control.

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