Data Governance in a Time of COVID-19

Image of a microscope and a gloved hand with a dropper is symbolic of the fundamental importance of a proactive approach to data governance to improve insights in the time of a global pandemic | Informatica

It’s phenomenal to consider how much change we are all currently experiencing. On so many levels, our country and others across the globe are dealing not only with the coronavirus pandemic, but new financial and technological pressures to rebuild our economies and our communities in foundational ways. Critical to any society are all types of organizations and enterprises that power the economy (banks, government, manufacturers, schools, energy, etc.). All are facing the pressure to re-engineer their systems, tools, and processes to provide better data which is fundamental to improving insights and driving well-grounded business decisions.  

Data governance may seem an afterthought—or at least not the highest priority—right now. But in so many ways, the time has never been better to address issues that have hounded all types of organizations for a very long time. And the common denominator is data. 

Let’s begin with some aspirational ‘what if’s’:   

  • What if epidemiologists in the EU, South America and the US (putting politics aside) could share data on viral strains to understand the extent of genetic mutations, infection rates, and persistence so they could better design their public health systems?   
  • What if prisons, public health agencies, schools, and nursing homes could standardize the data definitions for critical data elements to be tracked so they could better protect vulnerable populations?   
  • What if they could also protect the identity of their patients, citizens, and customers so that data can be shared?   
  • What if banks and other lending institutions could build risk analysis models to better anticipate events such as unemployment and prepare products that would assist their customers as they muddle through times of uncertainty?   

Key to many of these scenarios is building better data management capabilities: 

  • the ability to identify and define data across sources 
  • the ability de-identify, cleanse, standardize, and curate data for sharing  
  • the ability to profile data from different applications and apply standard business and data management rules and data protection policies 
  • the ability to engineer workflows with defined user roles and responsibilities  
  • the ability to expedite governance processes and improve the time-to-value of data assets 
  • the ability to visualize data, quality and policy relationships to streamline troubleshooting 

However, simply installing new and better tools for data management won’t necessarily fulfill the needs of your key end-users. In designing data governance, you will be designing the infrastructure that ties these capabilities back to the original business goals. How can we design effective, global epidemiological approaches to manage this pandemic?  How can we better protect individuals who are at high risk? How can we design additional products to help our clients and customers get through this crisis? 

If organizations are under such stress right now, how could this possibly be the right time to tackle data governance?  Many organizations are in highly reactive mode, seeing their supply chains dry up, their sales models upended, and their budgets drastically reduced.    

Common Misconceptions:  

  • Data governance is labor-intensive, time-consuming, bureaucratic, and slow   
  • Standing up a data governance program could slow things down even more   

On the contrary!  

The Reality: 

  • A well-designed data governance program will accelerate the value and versatility of your data by providing oversight and direction for your data management capabilities  
  • It will help ensure that you can prioritize the implementation of technical investments by maintaining alignment between your business priorities and the enabling technologies   
  • An effective data governance model will clarify user roles, responsibilities, and handoff points—and improve communications across data management teams and business users   
  • It will effectively reduce the time and effort currently invested in troubleshooting data quality issues and where to find data that’s fit for business purpose   

By empowering business and IT data stewards with the authority and the forum for collaboration through a data governance council, it will facilitate communications across business departments and data silos. How can you afford NOT to promote your data governance resources? 

We are indeed facing tremendous pressure to become more responsive to changing markets and become more agile within our own organizations. But this means addressing fundamental weaknesses that have persisted for a long time, either as a result of immature tools or organizational culture. We can’t continue to keep trying to fix the same problems repeatedly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) in the same ways.  

The best way to get going with data governance is to start with a small but relevant project to demonstrate business success. Show some measurable accomplishments and link these to business metrics. The Informatica Data Governance Framework may be a helpful model to start setting targets for new capabilities and business-focused metrics that monitor value.  

Key to your success is to design your program with the end in mind, and scale it by replicating your successes, refining your processes or organization as you broaden the scope in terms of data and business domains. Data Governance and Privacy is one of Informatica’s 3 key development journeys for this very reason. It is one of our top priorities because it also needs to be one of yours. Instead of merely reacting to the next crisis, make the investments now (in training, technology, organizational structure, and communications), so that you have the knowledge and the resources to keep your organization healthy and strong well into the future. 

You can learn more about how Informatica Advisory Services can help you on this journey here