Data governance: The case for self-validation
by David Loshin, President, Knowledge Integrity Inc.
Most organizations understand the importance of data governance in concept. But they may not realize all the multifaceted, positive impacts of applying good governance practices to data across the organization. For example, ensuring that your sales and marketing analytics relies on measurably trustworthy customer data can lead to increased revenue and shorter sales cycles. And having a solid governance program to ensure your enterprise data meets regulatory requirements could help you avoid penalties.
Companies that start data governance programs are motivated by a variety of factors, internal and external. Regardless of the reasons, two common themes underlie most data governance activities: the desire for high-quality customer information, and the need to protect and secure that data. Consider the requirements outlined by the General Data Protection Regulation, for example.
What’s the best way to ensure you have accurate customer data that meets stringent requirements for privacy and security?
For obvious reasons, companies exert significant effort using tools and third-party data sets to enforce the consistency and accuracy of customer data. But there will always be situations in which the managed data set cannot be adequately synchronized and made consistent with “real-world” data. Even strictly defined and enforced internal data policies can’t prevent inaccuracies from creeping into the environment.
Why you should move beyond a conventional approach to data governance
When it comes to customer data, the most accurate sources for validation are the customers themselves! In essence, every customer owns his or her information, and is the most reliable authority for ensuring its quality, consistency and currency. So why not develop policies and methods that empower the actual owners to be accountable for their personal data?
Doing this means extending the concept of data governance to the customers and defining data policies that engage them to take an active role in overseeing their own data quality. The starting point for this process fits within the data management framework – define the policies for customer data validation.
A good template for formulating those policies can be adapted from existing regulations regarding data protection. This approach will assure customers that your organization is serious about protecting their data’s security and integrity, and it will encourage them to actively participate in that effort.
Examples of customer data engagement policies
- Data protection defines the levels of protection the organization will use to protect the customer’s data, as well as what responsibilities the organization will assume in the event of a breach. The protection will be enforced in relation to the customer’s selected preferences (which presumes that customers have reviewed and approved their profiles).
- Data access control and security defines the protocols used to control access to customer data and the criteria for authenticating users and authorizing them for particular uses.
- Data use describes the ways the organization will use customer data.
- Customer opt-in describes the customers’ options for setting up the ways the organization can use their personal data.
- Customer data review asserts that customers have the right to review their data profiles and to verify the integrity, consistency and currency of their data. The policy also specifies the time frame in which customers are expected to do this.
- Customer data update describes how customers can alert the organization to changes in their data profiles. It allows customers to ensure their data’s validity, integrity, consistency and currency.
- Right-to-use defines the organization’s right to use the data as described in the data use policy (and based on the customer’s selected profile options). This policy may also set a time frame associated with the right-to-use based on the elapsed time since the customer’s last date of profile verification.
The goal of such policies is to establish an agreement between the customer and the organization that basically says the organization will protect the customer’s data and only use it in ways the customer has authorized – in return for the customer ensuring the data’s accuracy and specifying preferences for its use. This model empowers customers to take ownership of their data profile and assume responsibility for its quality.
Clearly articulating each party’s responsibilities for data stewardship benefits both the organization and the customer by ensuring that customer data is high-quality and properly maintained. Better yet, recognize that the value goes beyond improved revenues or better compliance. Empowering customers to take control and ownership of their data just might be enough to motivate self-validation.
David Loshin, President of Knowledge Integrity Inc., is a recognized thought leader and expert consultant in the areas of data quality, master data management and business intelligence. Loshin is a prolific author regarding data management best practices, via the expert channel at b-eye-network.com and numerous books, white papers, and web seminars on a variety of data management best practices.