Good Governance Makes Data the Asset It Should Be


By Sherry Budziak

IS A HACKER haunting your future? Or is your data dilemma more like a recurring headache? Data shouldn’t be a challenge. It’s an asset that should work for you.

Two-point-five quintillion bytes of data are generated online daily, according to SaaS Scout Research Group. Data is the meta product of every sale. With each transaction, you reveal a byte about yourself. That information is currency in the digital marketplace.

Associations are fortunate to be rich in this valuable commodity. Members willingly share a myriad of details about their preferences. Sound data governance practices ensure that you can use the information to build stronger relationships and that member trust will be an asset instead of a liability.

In June 2021, data associated with 700 million LinkedIn users was posted for sale on a dark web forum. The hack involved 92 percent of LinkedIn accounts. Stories like this are frequent headlines. As the ability to collect and store data grows, the potential for breaches, improper use, and garden variety mismanagement increases.

Challenges aren’t limited to big corporations. Smaller groups also suffer when they don’t understand and adhere to principles of good data management. Even if you never experience a data catastrophe, failure to use data effectively is a liability that grows over time. When .orgSource guides associations through digital transformation, data governance is a critical component of success.

Focus on People

Back in simpler days, we had a client whose IT department revolved around one person. That manager was a fierce defender of data. On her watch, the information was always error-free and located exactly where it should be. Her control was absolute. But her singular concern with integrity and fear of sharing responsibility kept the data a prisoner in an ivory tower, unavailable to anyone else – in other words, almost useless. That approach didn’t work then, and it would be disastrous today.

As systems grow increasingly user-friendly and the need for data analytics spreads across organizations, attitudes regarding data governance are shifting. A digital focus puts the emphasis on giving people what they need to deliver value safely instead of on watchdogging and limiting access. Here are two definitions that highlight the distinction between a control and command perspective and a people/process-centered approach.

The Data Management Administration Association offers this description, “Data governance is the exercise of authority and control (planning, monitoring, and enforcement) over the management of data assets.”

Bob Seiner, who is president and principal of KIK Consulting & Education Services, and the publisher of The Data Administration Newsletter takes this more performance-oriented focus. “Data governance is the formalization of behavior around the definition, production, and usage of data to manage risk and improve quality and usability of selected data.”

Be a Digital Leader

Seiner’s definition resonates with me. It fits well with the qualities .orgSource identifies as important in the digital marketplace or Association 4.0™ leadership. Those include:

  • Agility, experimentation, and iteration
  • Eliminating siloes by integrating strategy and technology across departments
  • Collaboration
  • Cultivating innovation and problem-solving
  • Using data to drive decision-making
  • Personalizing customer experiences and interactions

Naturally, it continues to be critical to use best practices to protect your data and adhere to regulatory requirements. But in a digital culture, that should not be an isolated responsibility. Just as .orgSource advocates for a holistic approach to strategy, we also believe goals and objectives must be grounded in data and that data management must be shared by employees across the organization. With a people-centered approach, you accomplish these important goals.

Engage Users

The traditional definition of data governance was focused on control. But digital organizations use data actively. Data creates, drives, and manages the overarching business strategy. It is fundamental to daily decision-making.

Every department is a custodian of pieces of that information and contributes to the common goals. To achieve that level of collaboration, teams must be empowered to understand and trust the data they own and to use it effectively.

Most employees want to make a meaningful contribution. Behavior-centered data governance strategies gain traction by giving them the tools to deliver value to their co-workers and the association. The process begins with identifying operational needs and responsibilities and developing routines around those workflows.

Employees are trained to maximize the potential of their data and to understand the need for policies and procedures that will help them to use data effectively by:

  • Cataloging information so that teams know what exists and where it is located
  • Helping workgroups to collaborate and aggregate information for improved reports and analytics
  • Identifying gaps in knowledge that must be filled
  • Protecting members’ sensitive records
  • Maintaining the integrity and quality of statistics

In a collaborative governance process, teams are assisted to incorporate guidelines into their daily activities. When staff feels ownership and control over data management, they become engaged in the program’s success. Granting access while guiding usage builds a culture where data is valued.

Create a Powerful Community

People-centered data practices create fertile ground for expertise and enthusiasm to grow. As the program develops, data champions are certain to emerge. These are people who have the ability and interest to become subject experts. By rewarding and recognizing these contributors, you mobilize them to motivate others. Sharing ideas cross-pollinates innovation and stimulates the creative thinking that is the hallmark of Association 4.0 leadership and the beginning of a data-centric culture.

When employees throughout the organization become effective stewards, data transcends its status as information. It becomes the key to building enduring relationships and solving your organization’s biggest challenges.

Sherry Budziak is an innovative leader who turns strategy into results. She founded .orgSource in 2005 based on two ideas: the importance of superior customer service; and the critical role of transformative change for associations to thrive. Sherry is also the co-founder of .orgCommunity, an organization that provides new connections, inspiration and solutions to association leaders and industry suppliers through education programs, networking events and a robust online community. Learn more at www.orgsource.com.

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