Feeling encumbered by evolving data protection regulations complicating your digital transformation? Read on to see the consequences of poor data governance …

As you read this article, millions of organizations around the world that have survived the pandemic onslaught are scurrying to digitalize or ramp up the process, while at the same time grumbling at the extra compliance mandates set out in their country’s (and those of other lands) data privacy, security and protection laws.

While even the most technologically resistant people have now come to realize the importance of continual digital transformation, it has taken a global pandemic to knock the harsh reality into their senses. However, the reality is that digital pathogens had been proliferating globally in a pandemic fashion long before the outbreak in Wuhan.

Consequently, amidst the intense focus on revamping business infrastructures, worker skills-sets and management mindsets, the surge and sprawl in digital data will accelerate globally as well. That is why digitalization campaigns have to be kept in check via data governance imperatives every step of the way.

More than just compliance

Taken in the right way, data governance is more than just obeying evolving laws. As the foundation of future-proof and continual digitalization, data governance ensures that data is visible and of high quality. Only visible, high quality data can be mined for the best insights and monetization.

Next, even as businesses comply with the global general data protection regulations without any breaches, the intangible benefit of good data governance is the establishment of TRUST and corporate integrity.

Just as organizations have become acutely-aware of digitalization, ordinary people have begun scrutinizing organizational integrity and trustworthiness. Can you envision a day in the near future when it takes only a minor data incident (not amounting to a breach) to destroy an organization’s brand image and, consequently, its survivability?

Conversely, when organizations have mastered their valuable data, it can be shared not just for commercial value, but for the common global good. At the very least, data exchange and sharing at its best can lead to greater corporate collaborations.

In a nutshell, when digitalization is built on sound governance policies and execution, the tangible and intangible benefits outweigh the hassles.

What technology to use?

That is actually a trick question. Good data governance is not about technology, but an organizational commitment that involves corporate culture, people, processes and resources.

Starting with a preliminary framework and stewardship team, the five-prong process goes on to:

  • Define requirements and polices
  • Assess available tools and skills
  • Identify capabilities and gaps
  • Address the capabilities and gaps
  • Execute and continually manage the data governance process

Additionally, in view of unpredictable but definitely inventive cybercriminal agendas, special care needs to be put into: 

  • Implementing future-proof data security measures such as protecting data directly when stored, to ensure it is unusable even if exfiltrated.
  • Accounting for data protection at every level outside of the organization, by third-party vendors and even temporary gig services.
  • Continuously improving data security above and beyond the official laws, because even the world’s benchmark security agencies are not perfect. In short, be proactive rather than reactive.

As data proliferates, ITERATE

Much has already been said about building digitalization plans atop of sound data quality management strategies. Without ground-up policies to direct and regulate digital transformation, data starts to sprawl, become siloed, difficult to consolidate/clean, difficult to see and therefore, a wasted valuable lifeline.

As a digital organization’s data grows, it needs to continue to establish rules and procedures around that governance, and that is not just a project it can launch and then wrap up in an 18-month period. Rather, it is an iterative (i.e. constantly repeated, refined and reformed) culture and commitment that needs to grow and adapt to new compliance, business, and security challenges.

Creating a permanent data governance team and structure to meet those challenges will help ensure the continuing success of digitalization.

Governed by data

The provocative headline of this article initially seems a misnomer: Is it not good to have a “data-driven” infrastructure and organization? Why must we not let data govern us? Governing data is a given, is it not?

The subtlety is actually implicit: do we wish to lose control when we let data drive organizational decisions? What if the data is inaccurate, wrongly interpreted, untimely or downright wrong? Would it not be better to govern data with a solid framework and continually-refined organizational culture than to let any slippage cause the governments — or worse, your hard-earned customers — to impose penalties on your governance?