What is Active Data Governance?

By Talo Thomson

Published on February 10, 2021

What is Active Data Governance Blog

The way enterprises implement data governance is changing. In the past, data governance either emphasized exercising tight control over data or fitting people into rigid roles and processes. With both approaches, data governance is a hurdle to productive data & analytics rather than an enabler.

Now, as enterprises work to drive data culture, many are adopting a people-first approach. This new approach to data governance empowers data consumers to get the data they need, find the answers they seek, and move the business forward.

Active data governance is a modern, agile approach that focuses on supporting people who work with data. People are empowered to take responsibility for governing the data, including contributing to the repository of knowledge about the data and following guidelines, rather than adhering to rigid, prescriptive procedures.

This blog will explore the tenets of active data governance, and why you should consider this people-first approach to data governance.

A New Approach to Data Governance

Surges in data growth, the drive to be data driven, and the broadening spectrum of data users are sparking a rethinking of data governance. Data governance expert, Bob Seiner, who wrote Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success, defines data governance as “the formalization of behavior around the definition, production, and usage of data to manage risk and improve quality and usability of selected data.”

Seiner states that non-invasive data governance is a part of active data governance. Active data governance understands that data users are already governing data informally, but have yet to realize the drawbacks. The non-invasive approach adds value by introducing a formal layer of data governance, also known as active data governance.

The goal of active data governance is to formalize accountability for data such that people become active in assuring that the definition, production, and use of data follows the rules and provides a path toward appropriate decision-making that directly benefits the organization — rather than forcing data users into rigid roles.

Here’s how active data governance works:

Formalizing What Already Exists – Most organizations are currently governing data, they just aren’t documenting their process. Once the process can be distilled down to an inventory of processes, knowledge to improve, guide, and formalize what already exists can be accessed and applied on the necessary scale.

Starts with People – Formalizing existing governance practices starts with people. Most people already have some level of responsibility for the enterprise’s data. Active data governance enables organizations to intelligently analyze who does what with the data; it then uses these insights to formulate an operating model of roles and responsibilities that align with peoples’ existing relationships with the data.

Govern People not Data – Simply documenting data and policies isn’t good enough — you must also help people use data correctly. Active data governance addresses peoples’ behavior, embedding governance policies, standards, and terms in data consumers’ normal activities, workflows, and tools. Active data governance gives data consumers immediate access to the context they need to use data correctly. Whether they are searching for data or using data, they are contributing to the corpus of the organization’s knowledge.

Collaborative not Bureaucratic – Active data governance emphasizes empowering employees to participate in a community where they are rewarded for sharing their knowledge and input. It focuses on delivering value to data consumers rather than controlling the flow of knowledge.

Iterative not Waterfall – With active data governance, the participants in the community are central to the process. They consume as well as contribute new knowledge while stewards guide their analysis based on standards and policies to create an iterative process of continuous management and improvement of data and data-related assets.

Is Active Data Governance right for me?

When considering the type of data governance right for your organization, it is important to understand the goals for data & analytics and the type of culture you are trying to foster. Active data governance encourages data consumers to take responsibility for governing the data and ensures that their data efforts are improved because of it.

  • A New Approach to Data Governance
  • Is Active Data Governance right for me?
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