Undercover CIO: It’s Time to Govern Your Data

Undercover CIO in Data Operations November 09, 2019

With the speed of change, when seconds and minutes can alter an outcome or opportunity, data has become increasingly valuable to an organization. So, it stands to reason that data governance should be on top of all C-suite leaders’ minds, no matter their enterprise. 

At the core, every organization and its business users benefit from insights that can help them make informed decisions. But for data to be useful, it needs to be accurate, meaningful, timely, and most of all, accessible. Implementing the right data governance framework is a step in the right direction to ensure that happens. It can help in both understanding where that data is coming from—be it machine-generated, direct customer and vendor input, or out of an application such as SAP—as well as understanding what information to glean from it.

The only way you’re going to get that visibility and really understand the value of your data is when you recognize data as an asset and treat it as such. Without that mindset, your data is useless.

Data: Who Owns What?

On an enterprise level, we’ve talked for years about business process owners. It is equally as important to talk about business data owners. Should they be the same person? Will that duality in the ownership help, in turn leading to obtaining proper information, in turn leading to proper decision-making that drives growth? I think they should be the same person.

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding data ownership is that it should be the responsibility of IS/IT teams. Except for their own data, IS/IT teams are not and should not be the owners of enterprise-wide data. These teams, instead, should be the data facilitators. They should help people understand where the data is coming from as well as its importance.

In my opinion, data is owned by that person, that team, or that function that put it in the system. They should include not just data that is relevant to their processes, but they also need to enter data that feeds an end-to-end process. It must be thought of as an asset for the entire organization.

Playing by the Data Rules so Everyone Wins

By implementing governance and assigning responsibility for data accuracy across the board, you’re less likely to question the integrity of your organization’s data. From an operational point of view, a data governance framework reduces the army of spreadsheet jockeys within your organization. It also allows you to operate your overhead with a leaner mindset, which allows you to make more accurate decisions faster than your competition.

Having data governance in place also allows you to move toward a digital transformation, making your company an intelligent enterprise. New technology and applications alone will not get you there. Instead, it’s the ability to harvest and leverage your data in a way that drives your business forward. It’s the ability to use it in innovative ways, from multiple sources, and to be able to understand and explain the how, where, and why of it.

Making Your Data Governance Framework Functional

To get your data governance going, you need to first make sure the key players are at the table to discuss what’s needed, why it’s needed, and how to move forward to get it. In any organization, owners of the data should be the key users who are most familiar with the data, and the IS/IT team should simply be responsible for facilitating that data. And all of these individuals should be at the table when putting together a data governance framework.

A strong framework will break down to the most basic level what the data is and how it is used so that it can help people understand the importance of the data. It allows business users to work across multiple lines of business and functions in the process. That end-to-end process should have enabling technology that works with it, and it should outline the requirements for each of the steps along the way.

It is prudent that the IS/IT team steps up and help drive processes and facilitate the data between business and data process owners all the way down to the key user network. If they don’t, then data governance will not take place and you will not achieve the true ROI of your data.

The key is to first understand the data your organization has—on an enterprise-wide level—and then you can work to improve it. This mindset needs to begin at the C-suite level, include help from the IS/IT teams, and have buy-in from the business and key users within the company. With that, you’re one step closer to functionally using your organization’s data.

If you have a question or suggestion, please reach out to undercovercio@asug.com. If you’re an executive, email executiveexchange@asug.com to join our mailing list for invitations to local and national ASUG Executive Exchange events, where you can network with other executives looking to get more value from their SAP systems.