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Data Governance is More than a Guardrail

Data Governance is More than a Guardrail

Data governance is much more than a rigid structure for ensuring data privacy.  Here are six surprising things data governance initiatives can do for any organization.

Just like its real-world highway companion, a regulatory guardrail helps keep companies safe by making sure they stay on the road. C-level executives have long perceived data governance programs in this way: a rigid structural necessity that helps keep the company in line with existing and emerging privacy and compliance regulations.

Yet nobody likes to do things just because they have to do them. And indeed, the adoption of effective data governance programs is often sluggish because it’s seen as a regulatory burden – a tactical necessity that needs to be checked off the long and ever-growing list of to-do’s.

Yet here’s a little known secret: data governance is actually a strategic organizational enabler. If implemented correctly, it’s an advantage that helps companies use data smarter, react faster, and be more agile in the marketplace. Data governance allows organizations to reinvent themselves faster in the face of sudden changes or newly incorporated technologies. And it can serve as an opportunity playbook to create new products, identify new market opportunities and efficiently leverage existing business processes, people, and technology to continuously turn data into an enriched asset for the organization.

Far from burdensome, data governance solutions carry a world of benefits that can serve as building blocks that are reusable, scalable, and extensible.  Effective data governance initiatives resonate far beyond compliance, IT, security or even the executive suite. Here are six surprising things that data governance could do for any organization:

Six Surprising Data Governance Benefits

  1.  Faster agile growth – Data governance is a springboard for growth because without formalized and unified business and data-sharing processes, confusion and inefficiency rule. Companies that make things run smoother with data governance enable everyone to be on the same page as to what needs to be done, react faster to new business opportunities and thereby facilitate faster growth at scale.
  2. Streamlined knowledge flow – In any organization, data silos lead to lack of transparency on data availability and poor data consumption. But effective data governance training allows more data to be used by more people. By creating a data catalog so people can find out what and where data is available, companies break down physical data silos and streamline knowledge flow across teams. 
  3. Higher data quality– Data governance ensures that an organization’s data producers remain transparent in documenting each data set’s limitations. This is crucial so that data consumers understand what each data set can and can’t offer them. By ensuring that data set parameters are clearly understood by everyone, companies can use their data for the right purpose, unencumbered by disappointments owing to unrealistic expectations.  There is a strong alignment between data governance and the practices of data quality management.
  4. More consistent communication – While data assets are traditionally well-documented by data architects and IT system owners, data governance ties the business logic layer to these technical data sets. By building out a business glossary, data governance empowers business stakeholders to speak the same language when referring to data sets. This allows organizations to communicate more consistently about data – ensuring that critical business insights are both actionable and shareable.   The alignment of data governance and metadata management cannot be overstated.
  5. Enhanced management efficiency – In any organization, new or old, it’s important to understand who exactly does what. Data governance helps companies coalesce organizational responsibilities, formalizing roles that may already exist, and defining roles that may have never been clarified. This enhances overall management efficacy and more effectively codifies the decision-making process.
  6. Trusted decision-making – Data scientists that follow and understand data governance methodologies ensure less bias and provide more accurate results. By leveraging data governance to instill a culture of data quality and methodical data production, companies enjoy a higher level of trust in analytics results, and executives make key decisions based on accurate and timely insights.


Changing the perception of data governance offers organizations a world of advantages and opportunities. Since good data governance provides benefits for the entire company, everyone from the production floor to the executive suite should be involved in its management with attitudes shifting from one of burden to benefit.  Companies can not only meet the regulatory imperatives currently driving many data governance initiatives, but they also gain significant competitive market advantages in the process.

A version of this article was published originally 


Peggy Tsai

Peggy Tsai has 20  years of practitioner experience in data management and governance in the financial services industry.  Currently, she serves as Vice President of Data Solutions at BigID, where she oversees the data governance product and strategy. Prior to BigID, she worked in various leadership roles at Morgan Stanley, AIG, and S&P Global. In addition, she co-hosts a data and technology podcast called The Data Transformers. She is also a founding member of the Women Leaders in Data & AI, Global Events Co-Lead for EDM Council’s Women’s Data Professionals Forum as well as an advisor to several tech start-ups.  Peggy holds degrees from NYU and Cornell universities.

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