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The “Force-Field” of Data Governance

Data governance has a big job: establishing the processes, policies, standards, organization, and technologies required to manage and ensure the availability, accessibility, quality, consistency, auditability and security of data in an organization.

In many instances it is seen as too overwhelming or daunting to undertake, like Don Quixote chasing windmills. Too often people are immobilized by analysis paralysis and fail to move forward after initial meetings and excitement. But don’t stop before you get started. Data governance is like the force-field around your data, protecting that “single version of the truth.”

OK, so maybe “force-field” isn’t be best analogy. Perhaps data governance would be better explained with a story. After all, there’s nothing “sci-fi” about reality or customer success.The story is about Nationwide Insurance — I recently learned about the experience they had with data governance and their Enterprise Data Management (EDM). They won a TDWI 2006 Best Practices Award
in the master data management category and an InfoWorld 2006 Project of the Year Award.

I have worked with other insurance companies and have observed that, as an industry, they are certainly grappling with EDM. Some, however, have been paralyzed by their approach. Not Nationwide.

Anyway, Nationwide took data governance very seriously when they put EDM in place in 2004. Their issue? To gain tighter control of financial reporting, which was scattered across no fewer than 12 reporting systems and even more ledgers, repositories, accounts, and spreadsheets (hundreds of thousands of spreadsheets!)

In brief, though, they ended up with more accurate and reliable forecasting, streamlined operations, and, what I like to think of as the holy grail for finance: the ability to be a strategic advisor to the business. They moved from the stone age of hunting and gathering of data to the 21st century information analysis and performance management.

I’d love to hear your examples of how data governance has made a difference in your organization.

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