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Whats in a title

by Justin York

This question could be asked about any number of things such as Executive, Director, Accountant or Manager; we naturally associate titles with roles, however titles can also be attached to functions such as Information Technology, Business Management or Governance and Compliance; these titles can bring their connotations with them and if you consider governance and compliance then this imbues a sense of control, checking and additional burden. It is not therefore surprising that when a new discipline comes along which is called Data Governance that it is not well received;

there are a number of reasons for this, I believe the primary two are:

The term governance brings a connotation of even more control and burden, and

Data is seen as a dark art, best left to those we keep in the basement running the systems.

Taking point 2 first, the strange thing about data is that it's all around us, it has terms associated with it such as 'the lifeblood of the organisation' and for most people it's just 'stuff' that's always there and we make use of it.

If we then take point 1 we now add the concept of greater control and additional burden to the 'stuff' that's just there, has always been there and we've always used.Under this point you might hear, 'we've always done it this way'.

Nothing is especially incorrect about either of these points and it says much more about the culture of the organisation.It is an interesting fact that data only becomes important if there is a fine heading the companies way or the regulators want proof that you have carried out their wishes.Yet if I draw you back to point 2, 'lifeblood' then what are the reasons for not treating it the same way as any other asset?

For me these are three fold:

The culture of the organisation does not readily allow change

Its seen as an additional cost on the bottom line, and

What's wrong with it anyway

Taking each of these:

Culture: organisations need to change their culture to reflect the changing views of the marketplace and the regulators.After continual fines and poor publicity it's just a good thing to be able to reassure the customer base that you take it seriously, notwithstanding avoiding a heavy financial penalty

Cost: setting anything up initially has an associated cost; often however these regimes can recoup the cost of investment through other means such as good data quality and through that improved decision making.

Issues: the facts are that without a governance regime that looks at quality, the first inkling that it's not right will be when you either get complaints or the financial penalty lands on the CEO's desk

Having been through that tortuous view, let me take you back to the heading of this article, what's in a title? In reality quite a lot, the connotations, the cultural change needed and most likely the additional work all associated with the word 'Governance'.If we are serious about making sure that the data for which we have responsibility is correctly controlled and managed then it needs to be treated as an asset like any other in the business.

With that in mind, one view that I have heard is to change data governance to information asset management, a much more catchy title, the key word being 'Asset'.People understand assets, granted that data being mostly intangible is a little more difficult, but assets have value and value needs protecting.

Much of the subject around what to call data governance in my view comes from the lack of understanding around what its purpose is.You can always ignore it and hope it goes away or you can wait for the penalty, or for the savvier, you can build it and implement it and over time save the business time and effort.