Data Governance: A Fundamental Aspect of IT

By E.G. Nadhan, HP

In an earlier post, I had explained how you can build upon SOA governance to realize Cloud governance.  But underlying both paradigms is a fundamental aspect that we have been dealing with ever since the dawn of IT—and that’s the data itself.

In fact, IT used to be referred to as “data processing.” Despite the continuing evolution of IT through various platforms, technologies, architectures and tools, at the end of the day IT is still processing data. However, the data has taken multiple shapes and forms—both structured and unstructured. And Cloud Computing has opened up opportunities to process and store structured and unstructured data. There has been a need for data governance since the day data processing was born, and today, it’s taken on a whole new dimension.

“It’s the economy, stupid,” was a campaign slogan, coined to win a critical election in the United States in 1992. Today, the campaign slogan for governance in the land of IT should be, “It’s the data, stupid!”

Let us challenge ourselves with a few questions. Consider them the what, why, when, where, who and how of data governance.

What is data governance? It is the mechanism by which we ensure that the right corporate data is available to the right people, at the right time, in the right format, with the right context, through the right channels.

Why is data governance needed? The Cloud, social networking and user-owned devices (BYOD) have acted as catalysts, triggering an unprecedented growth in recent years. We need to control and understand the data we are dealing with in order to process it effectively and securely.

When should data governance be exercised? Well, when shouldn’t it be? Data governance kicks in at the source, where the data enters the enterprise. It continues across the information lifecycle, as data is processed and consumed to address business needs. And it is also essential when data is archived and/or purged.

Where does data governance apply? It applies to all business units and across all processes. Data governance has a critical role to play at the point of storage—the final checkpoint before it is stored as “golden” in a database. Data Governance also applies across all layers of the architecture:

  • Presentation layer where the data enters the enterprise
  • Business logic layer where the business rules are applied to the data
  • Integration layer where data is routed
  • Storage layer where data finds its home

Who does data governance apply to? It applies to all business leaders, consumers, generators and administrators of data. It is a good idea to identify stewards for the ownership of key data domains. Stewards must ensure that their data domains abide by the enterprise architectural principles.  Stewards should continuously analyze the impact of various business events to their domains.

How is data governance applied? Data governance must be exercised at the enterprise level with federated governance to individual business units and data domains. It should be proactively exercised when a new process, application, repository or interface is introduced.  Existing data is likely to be impacted.  In the absence of effective data governance, data is likely to be duplicated, either by chance or by choice.

In our data universe, “informationalization” yields valuable intelligence that enables effective decision-making and analysis. However, even having the best people, process and technology is not going to yield the desired outcomes if the underlying data is suspect.

How about you? How is the data in your enterprise? What governance measures do you have in place? I would like to know.

A version of this blog post was originally published on HP’s Journey through Enterprise IT Services blog.

NadhanHP Distinguished Technologist and Cloud Advisor, E.G.Nadhan has more than 25 years of experience in the IT industry across the complete spectrum of selling, delivering and managing enterprise level solutions for HP customers. He is the founding co-chair for The Open Group SOCCI project, and is also the founding co-chair for the Open Group Cloud Computing Governance project. Connect with Nadhan on: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Journey Blog.

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