7 pillars of modern data and analytics governance 


By Saul Judah, VP Analyst at Gartner

It’s no secret that successful data and analytics (D&A) governance requires a solid foundation. Without it, organizations may find it difficult to respond effectively to new business opportunities and challenges.

The lack of a clear benchmark for best practice in key governance areas makes it difficult for D&A leaders to determine exactly what areas of governance to improve and how much to invest. 

‘Modern’ refers to the post-digital era, in which D&A leaders must set the right foundation for data and analytics governance to deliver sustainable business value. Gartner highlights seven must-have foundations to build a modern D&A governance program. D&A leaders should take action by assessing and addressing the gaps between their current governance practices and the seven pillars of D&A governance outlined below. 

  1. Aligning Data Governance Efforts with Business Outcomes

D&A leaders need to link their governance activities specifically and directly to business outcomes. Place business value and prioritized outcomes are at the core of your D&A governance charter, backed by clear business metrics that quantify success. The business metrics must be assigned to named stakeholders and should be directly connected to specific D&A metrics.

Evaluate how your current data and analytics maturity inhibits business value and impedes specific business outcomes. To improve business results, develop an engagement plan with key business stakeholders responsible for these outcomes.

  1. Accountability and Decision Rights

The aim of governance should be to achieve great business results in the most effective, efficient, and least intrusive manner possible. Developing a D&A governance framework that is based on a better understanding of business decisions, accountabilities and decision rights will lead to successful digital business initiatives.

  1. Establishing Trust

Organizations cannot assume ownership of all D&A assets they govern. As some D&A assets are created, consumed, and controlled in a distributed environment, trust-based D&A governance is essential, which acknowledges the lineage and curation of these assets.  Leverage your data catalog as the basis for a trust model, identifying your key enterprise assets, their value and associated risk, and trust levels based on lineage and curation.  Then use this trust model to reshape your D&A governance activities, focusing on how trusted enterprise assets can better support prioritized business outcomes.

  1. Emphasis on Transparency and Ethics

A D&A governance model should operate in an open and transparent manner, based on a clear decision-making process and ethical foundations. Furthermore, it is important for CDOs to establish and manage an enterprise-wide framework for digital ethics.

Make sure your D&A governance charter outlines the authority, accountability, and basis for governance decisions clearly and is up-to-date. Your D&A governance operating procedures should demonstrate a clear audit trail that shows decisions made and their basis, actions taken, related investments and expenditures, and compliance with stated digital ethics principles.

  1. Risk Management and Information Security

The best-performing organizations take a risk-aware approach, rather than trying to avoid risk, and their governance decisions address both opportunity and risk, simultaneously. Security in these organizations is an integral aspect of business operations and not viewed as an afterthought.

Governance decisions are made in the context of opportunity value and risk appetite rather than only impact and likelihood. Organize a workshop with leaders responsible for D&A risk and security. Evaluate the current approach taken for D&A initiatives. Finally, use the outputs from the workshop to develop an engagement model that delivers trusted D&A governance decisions based on risk-adjusted opportunities.

  1. Educate and Train on Governance

A successful D&A governance requires people with the right competencies, skills and attitude. Establish a learning and development program to support D&A governance best practices in collaboration with HR. Develop training modules that include webinars, blogs, and guidelines to provide relevant and updated information about governance-related roles and the required skill set. Analyze how the training modules assist people in making better D&A governance decisions and make the necessary improvements.

It is important to remember, the process of training and development is a continuous one and should not be a one-time activity, nor should it be done all at once.

  1. Collaboration and Culture:

Governance decisions and action are taken across the enterprise, not just at the center. The best way to drive collaboration and culture improvement is not just through policies and standards, but also by storytelling and culture hacks that are small and visceral.

Understand the organization’s current data and analytics culture. Determine how much of what people believe about D&A governance is actually true, and what needs to be changed culturally. Lastly, create a cultural roadmap explaining how D&A governance can move from control to collaboration, and how it would address the real challenges that people currently face with D&A governance.


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