Ebay, Equifax, Cambridge Analytica, GDPR, PII and HIPAA—you’ve seen the headlines. This is the era of mounting restrictions and massive data breaches. Just in the first six months of GDPR enforcement, users filed nearly 4000 complaints! With fines up to 4% of annual revenue for GDPR noncompliance, enterprise leadership is paying closer attention to data governance lately.
But, it’s not just C-level executives who need to be concerned. Just about anyone responsible for collecting, storing or leveraging data needs to be considering the risks and rewards of a well-thought-out Data governance plan.
Data Governance is Not Just Risk Management
Data governance isn’t just about keeping your client out of the headlines and avoiding class action privacy lawsuits. Data governance can be a proactive collaboration driver that helps teams unlock the value and power hiding in their shared data.
Through our experience working with data-intensive brands like Business Insider and Mailchimp, we’ve helped leaders develop and implement data governance strategies that provide actionable value far beyond risk management and prevention.
When done well, data governance helps organizations with:
- Faster decision making
- Action and implementation—not just insights and learning
- Wider access for internal and external stakeholders
- Collaboration without contamination
- Reliable training and onboarding of data stakeholders
- Scenario preparation for mergers and acquisitions
- Reduced risk of breach or non-compliance
So, What Is Data Governance?
As a digital or creative agency, one of the first things you request when working with a new client is the company’s style guide. In the design world, a professional style guide documents and enforces a shared set of brand guidelines and protocols that enable internal and external team members to communicate efficiently and consistently.
Data governance works essentially the same way. Like a style guide, a data governance plan provides the same reassurance, protection and clear communication channels for organizations in which internal stakeholders and external vendors all need access to the same data sources but for different purposes and applications.
Data governance establishes clear, enforceable guidelines for when, why, how, and by whom data can be accessed and used. Data governance enables large and small organizations alike to manage the availability, usability, integrity, and security of their data.
Data governance is not about specific data points relevant to particular projects, or about how organizations use or leverage data; these evolve over time, following industry trends, customer needs, and new technologies.
Rather, data governance is about how an organization makes decisions about data access and usage. Like any good planning, your data governance documentation needs to be sufficiently clear, simple and evergreen, applying to current as well as future data and analytics systems. Most importantly, data governance must be understood, respected and championed by leaders who drive strategic direction for the business—the CEO, CIO, CMO or Chief Strategy Officer.
Why Data Governance Matters for Agencies
As an external data governance champion, one of your most valuable roles can be helping your client access, share and analyze the relevant user data they need for optimal results. Advising your clients about the importance of developing and implementing a data governance strategy will help them help you. Organizations that are clear about who is in charge of making what decisions, for instance, are able to act faster and be more responsive to customer needs and competitive threats.
Although your client’s data systems and analytics tools are usually procured and managed by IT departments, data reports and dashboards tend to be utilized by others in the organization—especially marketers, product developers and often vendors and outside agencies, too.
Enterprise data is a strategic decision-making asset too often underutilized by the many diverse stakeholders inside and outside the enterprise. As an agency, you will eventually need access to the right data at the right time to effectively execute campaigns for your client. Data governance helps ensure timely access to the data and reports needed for informed, insightful campaign execution and marketing strategy.
Ultimately, good data governance supports effective communication and decision-making.
Delivering truly professional results may require you and your agency to become your client’s data governance champion. Seize opportunities to go above and beyond in your next engagement. Start the data governance conversation.
How Empirical Path Helps You Help Your Clients
Empirical Path has developed and modeled custom data governance for large and small organizations alike, each with a unique set of needs.
Typically, these engagements involve the following deliverables, from strategic to tactical:
- Mapping data governance guidelines to strategic business objectives
- Convening a data governance board with the right cross-functional representation
- Developing data governance frameworks—shared sets of policies and processes that guides the establishment and usage of the analytics systems, databases and data.
- Identifying and analyzing the tagging and data collection for both the agency and for the enterprise
- Creating an enterprise tag management strategy structured around centralized ownership and control with subgroup permissioning for specific stakeholders to maximize collaboration while mitigating risk for the agency and for the enterprise
- Enabling auditing of data collection from all devices—desktop, mobile web, AMP and mobile applications—to maximize speed, reduce unnecessary and redundant tags, mitigate risks, and uncover opportunities for more efficient tagging and data collection
Just as a style guide is shared internally and with external partners to ensure cohesive branding for an organization, so should your client’s data governance plan define how data is utilized within and shared outside the organization. If being proactive about data governance is something that will deepen your client relationship and your enable client’s success, don’t hesitate to reach out to the data governance experts at Empirical Path.
Maxine Teller is a business strategy consultant with 25 years of success helping technology media, digital, government, health and nonprofit clients think differently to grow more effectively. She has witnessed disruptive technologies obliterate legacy assumptions and crumble entire industries. Data is the competitive currency: harness the the power of data to strategically evolve your businesses.
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