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Much of what we do in the last 20 months or so has changed to become end-to-end digital experiences and consumers expect organisations to continue their investments in cloud services. Yet, companies pursuing digitalisation in a fast-changing landscape can forget data governance lies at the heart of success and plays a critical role in every strategic initiative.
Teradata, the force behind data warehousing some 40 years ago, found 73% of Australian IT decision-makers reported their organisation had no plans to increase data governance investments at this stage, while 89% felt their organisations should still prioritise data governance and responsibility initiatives more than they are.
The research was commissioned by Teradata and conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne during August, exploring global sentiment around data-driven transformation investments for 2021 and beyond, and reveals where organisations are placing their bets to set themselves up for success.
The findings are a concerning wake-up call for business, indicating data governance is seen as an expense when it is, in fact, a necessary thing. Organisations need to reframe their data governance conversations and build it into their digital transformation strategies from day one to achieve the greatest success.
Steve McMillan, chief executive officer and president, Teradata (pictured), and Brenden Bertuola, senior director of business consulting for Teradata Asia Pacific and Japan, spoke with iTWire to explain why data governance is important, how IT leaders can sell the business value of data governance to internal stakeholders, and tie data governance efforts back to business value rather than introducing specific capabilities.
For clarity, data governance means data management systems that ensure business objectives are supported by high-quality data and controls across the complete life cycle of data. Data governance ensures the availability, usability, integrity, and security of data in your systems. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, machine learning, automation, business intelligence and analytics, and more, all rely on this as the framework informing all dimensions of a business.
Some might look at this definition and think they have achieved data governance because their data is housed and secured in a trusted public cloud with logins restricted to key staff and because they have a separation between their production and development environments. However, while essential, those items are not data governance. The reality is something else.
"Data Governance is how you make sure you can trust your data," McMillan said. "Trusted data results in accuracy and analytics, built on transparency of understanding.”
"Regulated industries like finance give the best insights into data governance and standards because they are compelled to do so,” he said. “They talk about governance in measures of completeness, timelines, accuracy, fitness for use - all of this means the data is trusted and used consistently within the organisation so people can access it in a secure, structured way, with understandable outcomes.”
For startups and enterprises of all sizes that don't fit in the regulated category, it's a different story. As these businesses grow and innovate they typically find their data increasingly distributed across platforms, products, regions, and elsewhere - and applying data governance over this distributed data becomes even more challenging especially if there was no governance in place to start with.
Teradata's platform has been recognised as supporting data governance across public, private, and hybrid clouds, as well as on-premises.
"We improve things across a number of dimensions. Teradata strengthens validation at the point of data entry to make sure it is trusted, to have consistent standards across the entire ecosystem, and to ensure cooperation across multiple departments,” McMillan said.
"Data governance reflects not only how does data get in and become structured, but how do you control anomalies and use it,” he said. “Our tech platform really lends itself to enabling organisations to have a great approach to data governance which leads to trusted data and produces results.”
The survey results - 73% of Australian businesses reporting they do not plan to increase investment in data governance at this time - came as no surprise to Teradata, “but we wanted to shine a light on the issue,” McMillan said. “It emphasises the challenge in the market.”
"Locally, the perception is if a business is investing in data governance it's fixing a problem it shouldn’t have had in the first place,” Bertuola said. “Millions of dollars are spent on fixing problems of all types and companies don’t want to be public on this. However, with emerging technology like 5G and IoT there will be a requirement to have governance on this at the core along with new data to come, and it has to be implemented in such a way that your time-to-value is maximised.”
"No day goes by where there is less data in the world than the day before," McMillan added. “There’s an explosion of data which will accelerate with IoT, edge computing, AI, and analytics.”
Ultimately, the message from Teradata is data is here to stay, and data will only increase. It’s critical companies ensure their investment in digital transformation is doing the right things to allow critical product decisions or customer service based on accurate and trustworthy data. This is what data governance is about, and why Australian companies need to pay attention.
If you're unsure how to start applying data governance to your situation, McMillan and Bertuola have practical advice for you.
"It's really important to understand the perception of the quality of data in the organisation today and where the biggest issues are with the trust and quality of data,” McMillan said. “This can get you on the fast path to identifying the data and governance issues. Then prioritise the cost of bad data to the business. Prioritise a pragmatic action plan to gain support for some of the investments needed to solve the problem of these data issues you’ve identified.”
For example, McMillan says, "if inaccurate data is causing you to lose a customer or you're feeding customers incorrect answers then this is wasted opportunity in terms of revenue growth and revenue expansion.”
You can fix this, but "it's important to anchor the conversation in terms of the value to the company so you can focus on where improving data capabilities will give the greatest value to the company as a whole,” he said.
Often the nuts-and-bolts of data is in the back office, Bertuola noted, with a proliferation of data marts and platforms as companies grow. “There is a platform proliferation, and this may lead to adopting cheaper platforms but companies may not be making sure what comes out of the new platform is the same,” he said.
Of course, you can't stop businesses while moving platforms, but front-end data governance comes in. “This includes things like data cataloguing to understand who uses what data and what they’re getting out of it,” Bertuola said.
In addition, "as much as possible we recommend not duplicating data unless you really need to,” McMillan said. “One thing we’ve evolved in Teradata is enabling customers to use data, not move it. We created a connected data platform that can analyse and access data in multiple systems and multiple areas, on multiple clouds. Teradata puts together connected platforms to enable analytics for customers.”
Data governance is critical to digital transformation success, to ensure trustworthy data-driven decisions and to ensure customer interactions are success stories. “Gartner used to say all companies are becoming tech companies. Now they are saying all companies are data companies,” McMillan said.
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