What to Do Before You Start Data Governance

One of the ultimate goals for establishing data governance is to revamp an organization’s data culture for the better. And this is an immense task.

That’s why before an organization begins strategizing and implementing data governance, there are a few things it can put in order to create a more effective and valuable governance strategy.

“Data culture is valuable, not just to the owner, such as the agency, but to the citizens of this country as well,” said Michael Towles, Principal Business Processes Consultant at SAP NS2, a cloud and analytics provider. “We rely on the government for a lot of services, and the data it brings in is really the citizens’ data. It’s the business of the country to put our best foot forward.”

Towles shared three action items agencies can do to prep their data governance strategies.

1. Know What Data You Have

In discussions with customers, Towles has found that organizations often lack insight into what data they have under their control.

For example, some agencies have an immense amount of dark data that goes back decades. Dark data is the kind of data that doesn’t have enough context for agencies to use for analytic insights or decision-making.

You need to know such data exists before you can transform your data culture. Use tools that can help discover and catalog all the data that is under your control. It provides the foundation for building a data strategy.

2. Strategically Plan

When agencies understand the data they have, then they can plan how to turn it into valuable assets for their strategic goals.

For example, data on agricultural crop yields are rich sources of information in and of themselves. But when an agency can analyze them against weather patterns, population densities, even normalized economic models, it can unlock the value of the data in more profound and strategic ways. The agency can begin to predict the future economic impacts of these crops.

“The ability to build new and innovative data models provides value that you otherwise would not have seen,” Towles said.

3. Build Processes and Procedures

Once agencies have a strategic plan in place, they can begin to set the regular rhythms of using the data. The processes and procedures should be a well-documented plan that deals with day-to-day technology needs.

Externally, it’s important to establish a communications plan that standardizes interactions with data users throughout the data lifecycle.

Internally, it’s critical to create procedures that allow data management platform operators to manage services in a reliable fashion, whether that’s DevOps or backup and recovery.

Ultimately, these processes should all indicate a measure of trustworthiness to data stakeholders. SAP NS2 can provide a data platform that agencies can rely on, in turn, Towles said. “SAP has always been a company focused on data, and NS2 has always been focused on government.”

Not every agency will have the same plans and procedures. But once these steps are prioritized, then refined data governance can really begin.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Advancing the Art of Data Analytics.” Download the full guide here.

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