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How To Write a Strong Data Governance Policy

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Data has become a large part of how businesses operate, but managing company data while maintaining compliance with regulations can be challenging. From the start, it is important to establish standards that dictate how to handle and access information. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of data governance, how the GDPR fits into those policies, and tips for creating data governance rules that are scalable and ensure you are compliant with regulations.

What is Data Governance?

Let’s start with the basics. As defined by the Data Governance Institute

“Data Governance is a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.”

Simplified, data governance refers to an established set of rules about working with data and best practices for handling data. These policies exist to make sure that a company’s data is high-quality and follows General Data Protection Rights (GDPR) regulations.

Identifying Data Governance Goals

Depending on company objectives, data governance criteria will have different focuses — compliance, data integration, scalability, or master data management to name a few. For example, if a company decides to focus on improving its master data management (MDM) strategy, it will prioritize governance that centers on  ensuring data accuracy and removes duplicate entries in the system. Administrators, analysts, and data stewards must parse through the database frequently to make sure that standards are upheld and other employees are able to access the most recent data.

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By creating data governance policies that are scalable, company data is kept readily available for an entire organization. This allows secure employee access to the appropriate level of data, fostering decision-making backed by relevant data.

Data Governance and General Data Protection Rights (GDPR)

An integral component of data governance policies is ensuring that a company is GDPR compliant. The GDPR mandates that companies who collect personal data must ensure that this is done ethically. The reason behind these ordinances is due to a transfer of data ownership. Enterprises no longer own the collected personal information of customers. Customers retain ownership of personal information and have the right to withhold it from any site browsed. It is up to the site owner to notify visitors of any data-gathering policies in place and for what purpose the personal information collected is used. “Personal information” refers to consumer data, this includes: shopping behavior analysis, demographic information, IP addresses, etc. 

GDPR regulations apply to any organization that operates within or offers products to those in the European Union. If any web traffic originates from a European source, companies are required to be GDPR compliant. With the world extensively interconnected through the internet, even if a target market lies outside of the EU there still may be website traffic originating from those countries. 

Companies that fail to comply with GDPR regulations are subject to warnings, extensive audits, and steep fines. British Airways incurred a fine of approximately $220 million USD (€200 million) because of a data breach in September of 2018. To avoid situations like this, take steps to make sure that data governance policies comply with GDPR. 

Poor Data Governance Has Consequences

The effects of poor data governance extend beyond messy data. Poor data governance complicates projects such as data migrations and data warehouse creation. It is important to make sure that the policies work well with your business processes to properly protect customer information. Information like credit card numbers, addresses, and other personal information, if lost, would have catastrophic results for both the company and impacted customers.  

One frustration frequently accompanying data governance policies is the red tape that comes when accessing data, especially sensitive customer information. Lower-level employees may need to request permission to view certain sets of data which slows productivity and inhibits job performance while waiting on approval.

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A solution? Update data management processes within your current platform to accommodate data requests more efficiently as the business grows. This necessitates a platform capable of handling larger data sets with the same level of analytic functionality as smaller data sets. Revised processes combined with a scalable BI platform prevents bottlenecks and empowers employees to quickly access information.

Although data governance can cause frustrations, well-defined criteria ultimately exist to smooth processes and maintain high-quality data. Striking a balance between protecting information with data governance policies and democratizing company data with an agile platform that can scale with future company growth takes a great deal of planning and cross-department collaboration. Data governance standards benefit companies in many ways including standardizing data formatting, promoting proper storage, and providing accurate inquiry results.

Considerations When Creating Data Governance Policies

Data governance policies will shift to adjust as an organization grows (or shrinks). If you’re creating data governance policies from scratch or renovating the current policies, here are a few tips to get started…

1. Use plain language and explicitly define business and IT terms used

Make sure that the language of data governance policies is concise and leaves no room for confusion. One approach to use when writing these policies is to imagine that a new employee has been hired. The hypothetical employee has limited knowledge about the company industry and is unfamiliar with some of the basic terms that might be used to explain company operations. Using plain language in governance policies means that everyone throughout the organization will be able to understand data governance and processes, as well as which actions would violate those policies.

2. IT isn’t solely responsible for maintaining the data, it’s a group effort

An IT department oversees a great deal when it comes to managing and maintaining a database, but their job is made easier when employees in all departments are familiar with the data governance policies in place and how to correctly input data they generate. This allows companies to operate with greater efficiency and lets IT administrators focus on large-scale projects. 

3. Research which laws the data needs to comply with

Keeping up with GDPR regulations is required for those that operate within the EU, but there may be other standards that data needs to meet. For example, healthcare organizations must comply with HIPAA to protect patient information. These regulations make sure that patient information is kept confidential by doctors and database administrators alike, protecting sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. 

4. Create a plan that protects sensitive data and outlines who has access to it

Perhaps the company has customer information — driver’s license numbers, purchasing habits, customer location, or credit card information. Should every employee be granted access to this information? 

Outline data governance standards that dictate who within the company has access to, moderates, and monitors this information to guard it from security breaches. It is also key to determine how and when employees can view this protected information. Will there be exceptions in which employees can request secure access to sensitive information? If so, identify these exceptions and the conditions in governance policies. 

5. Consider using a cloud-based analytics platform to manage company data

Every business has unique data needs. Having an analytics platform provides a scalable solution for companies that can be customized as growth or downsizing takes place. Qlik® is one of these cloud-based analytics platforms that can manage data and can scale with your organization, promoting informed decision-making. As a GDPR compliant vendor, Qlik works well for organizations of all sizes and offers unique solutions based on the needs of a business — and they’re backed by powerful AI software and acute analytics tools.

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As a certified Qlik partner, VanData is here to help! If you want to learn more about how Qlik can benefit your business, download a free desktop trial of Qlik Sense®, and see if it’s right for you. This platform allows you to quickly combine data in a secure SaaS environment and gain fast insights. Qlik Sense® users also benefit from the ability to easily create and share apps, automated data refreshes, and access to all of Qlik’s augmented intelligence capabilities. 

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