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Data Governance and Big Data: Tackle It One Project at a Time

This is the 6th post in the 10-post series, “A Marketer’s Journey Through the Big Data Archipelago.”

“Data that is loved tends to survive.” – Kurt Bollacker, data scientist

The Data Governance Isle in the Big Data Archipelago

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to five countries in Europe to participate in a SAS-sponsored executive roadshow. Jill Dyché, Vice President of SAS Best
Practices, kicked off each event with a discussion on data governance, data management and treating data as a corporate asset. I then spoke about big data and going beyond the 3Vs, similar in concept to this blog series. After each event, we then had the opportunity to talk with SAS customers about their data governance and big data issues.

There’s no question that data governance and data management continue to be important discussions. This was evident in Europe. While many companies have already developed (or are developing) an enterprise-scale data governance program, there’s some who still don’t understand its significance and/or are simply afraid to have the discussion. For those who do get it, though, they’re beginning to ask the question, “What do data governance and management look like for big data?”

A Big Data Best Practice for Data Governance

One casual observation I made on my trip is that Europeans, unlike their US counterparts, seem more cautious about jumping into one-off, sandbox-type, big data projects. They seem more interested in having the data governance and management discussion up front, or at least while they’re going along. In the US, a more common approach is to wrestle with the big data first, then figure out how to govern and manage it later on – if the project proves successful. Perhaps there’s a happy medium.

Given that we’re still in the emerging phase of big data, the approach we’re recommending for now is to tackle data governance one big data project at a time. Determine which components of
data governance – i.e., decision-making bodies, workflow, decision rights, data quality, and rules of engagement, to name a few – make sense for each big data project. Not all components will apply and that’s okay. Conversely, don’t let big data drive what would otherwise be an enterprise data governance effort.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

  • If you’re ever in Europe, go medieval and visit a SAS castle.
  • Coordinate your island schedule with other members on the data governance team. Solo trips are not allowed.
  • Don’t skip corners with “big” data. It’s all data. It all needs to be governed.
  • Visit the chalets on the South Shore of the island. They have hot tubs.
  •  Don’t be afraid to fail. Big data is new. We’re all learning.
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