What’s Your Data Governance ROI? Here’s What to Track

By Aaron Bradshaw

Published on February 14, 2023

A focused shot of a woman taking notes on her desk with an opened laptop, a ceramic mug, and a calculator being displayed.

In this day and age, regardless of industry, keeping data protected and its uses understood is vital. No business wants to have the PR nightmare of a data leak or personal data being used without the correct permissions.

And a data breach poses more than just a PR risk — by violating regulations like GDPR, a data leak can impact your bottom line, too. This is where successful data governance programs can act as a savior to many organizations.

This begs the question: What makes data governance successful?

To start, successful data governance isn’t just conforming to regulations. When implemented thoughtfully, data governance initiatives can save you time, money, and other resources, dramatically improving efficiencies across your organization.

Where do you start?

The first and most important step in making your data governance program a success is ensuring it is implemented across the entire organization, and not just by the data governance team. This includes anyone in your company who handles data, knows what to do with it, and what they shouldn’t be doing with it, according to their role. While this sounds simple, this is where most businesses fall short.

So, how do you do that well? The answer lies in a people-first approach. From rebranding data governance in your organization to demonstrating real business impacts, there’s a lot you can do to bring everyone in your business on board.

The role of monitoring, measuring, and metrics

So, you’ve got the first step done; you’ve implemented data governance and everyone in your organization is on board. This means that everyone is using the data that they should, following compliance regulations for data usage. Yet today, these activities are “table stakes” for data governance. How do you go beyond checking basic governance boxes… and leverage governance as a true business enabler? This mindset demands that governance leaders keep pushing and asking, “What can we achieve next, and how?” This is where monitoring comes in.

According to the Gartner report, The State of Data and Analytics Governance is Worse Than You Think, 80% of businesses acknowledge that high quality governance is essential to achieving long-term business goals. But, only 50% of leaders surveyed said that they measure their data governance systems at all.

In some ways it makes sense that such a large percentage of organizations don’t monitor their data governance systems, as it can be hard to know where to start.

Success can evolve over time – and with it what you measure. At first, “governance progress” metrics could be utilised, such as:

  • What % of tables have a data steward assigned?

  • What % of tables have a definition?

  • What % of glossary terms have been updated or approved in the past year?

  • What % of data is or isn’t assigned to a domain?

  • What % of columns have data quality rules implemented?

  • Does the top 5% of data used in the organization have data owners, stewards, titles, definitions, and classifications?

All of these above metrics track how well governed your organization’s data is, but not the benefit of doing so. With the above metrics in hand, you can quantify the benefits, like:

  • Reduced time to find data

  • Reduced time to understand data

  • Reduced time to query and use data

  • Reduced risk of fines due to poor data management practice

But these metrics can be taken even further; for example, if you can clearly see that there are five different systems storing the same data, then potentially some root cause analysis is required, followed by conversations with data consumers – in a bid to remediate and remove duplicate data. What are the benefits of reducing duplicate data?

  • Less data engineer resource maintaining the same data in different locations

  • Lower infrastructure costs

  • Less time investigating/correcting reports with inconsistent figures

  • Potential cost reduction in paying for external data from multiple sources

When you’re confident your governance program is functional, then you can ask yourself: Is it successful? To measure success, you should look at metrics such as:

  • How many of the organisation’s systems are documented?

  • How many business processes are documented?

  • How many reports do you have and how many are governed (and trusted)?

  • How much time spent locating data is being saved?

  • How often are data quality problems being flagged?

  • Is time taken to understand data in a given context reduced?

And it’s important to remember the more intangible side of things too. How is governance improving productivity across the business? In other words, if you free up an extra 5% to 10% of peoples’ time, what else can they do with it? Making subject matter experts available to deliver more isn’t just great for your organisation, it’s also great for your experts – freeing them up from answering the same questions and allowing them to explore more exciting business opportunities can be great for job satisfaction.

Showing value, quickly

As mentioned earlier, getting people on board with your data governance initiatives is key to its success — and one of the ways to do that is to highlight the value. Now, we’ve mentioned some of the longer-term ways to show value, but what can you do to highlight some quick wins to get your teams on board?

This is one of the challenges that U.S.-based clinical research organization Parexel. They tried to leverage all their available data while ensuring they were following data governance policies. With a global team spanning multiple countries, they needed to show the value in data governance – and quickly! – to ensure buy-in.

“Almost everybody is a data generator, a data consumer, or an analytics recipient,” says Michelle Hoiseth, Chief Data Officer of Parexel. “The breadth of cultural change and the momentous shift that we need touches nearly 20,000 people across 80 countries.”

By integrating Alation’s data catalog into their data landscape, Parexel’s teams could interact with each other in the platform, collaborating around the most trusted data. In this way, people could embrace the key cultural shift, in which governance is a path to smarter data usage and a more trusting, productive data community.

So how did Hoiseth set up the Parexel governance program for success? First, they focused on the areas where they could show real value, including:

  • Time to access data,

  • Quality of reporting, and

  • The speed to generate new analysis.

  • By measuring these critical business metrics from day one, the data team was prepared to show value to the C-suite in the future.

How can Alation help you?

We view data governance through a different lens, maintaining that governance should support business goals. Our data intelligence platform grew out of tools built to serve data analysts with a focus on immediate business value, inclusiveness, and ease of use. This is why Alation offers intuitive configuration, with a go-live timeframe of 10 to 12 weeks thanks to the Alation Professional Services Right Start Model.

Alation Professional Services Right Start Model Part 1
Alation Professional Services Right Start Model Part 2

Within our data catalog there are applications directly linked to ensuring successful data governance takes place. This means there is a central knowledge point for everyone within the organisation, helping you to achieve a successful data governance model.

To learn more about how Alation can help you show ROI from your date governance, schedule a personalized demo today.

  • Where do you start?
  • The role of monitoring, measuring, and metrics
  • Showing value, quickly
  • How can Alation help you?
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