Where challenge and opportunity collide: Big data meets data governance

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I'm old enough to remember the days before the explosions of social media, the web, smartphones and data. Upon graduating from college and even grad school in the mid-'90s, organizations could effectively monitor how their employees used enterprise information. Whether or not they achieved that objective, though, was another matter altogether.

When I reminisce on that quaint era, I'm both a little misty eyed and more than a little skeptical. When I think about organizations' contemporary data governance efforts and challenges, let me be blunt: I just don't see an easy path – far from it. Rather, I see a much more perilous road rife with landmines at every turn. I can't remember a time in which it was harder for an organization to influence – never mind control – what employees, partners, users and customers do with its data. Making matters worse, I don't see that trend reversing for the foreseeable future.

Still, I see some opportunities for organizations as they enter this uncertain and downright dangerous new world.

Considerations

big data and big data governanceStart by recognizing that traditional data governance may not play nicely with the largely external nature of big data. Pretending that data generated outside of the organization doesn't matter is just plain silly. What's more, I don't see how an organization "governs" big data without an eye on integration and, more specifically, taking an incremental approach.

Second, recognize that not all IT is created equal. There's a reason that DevOps has gained traction over the past five years. The folks responsible for IT operations often focus on security, provisioning and maintenance – things of much lesser import to developers. Remember this. Every company is becoming tech-driven.

Finally, as author and analytics expert Bill Franks and I discussed recently, ask yourself three questions with respect to analytics and data-related initiatives:

  • Is [insert name of action, program or campaign] illegal?
  • Is [insert name of action, program or campaign] ethical?
  • Is [insert name of action, program or campaign] going to upset people if it gets out?

As Target discovered with its pregnancy fiasco, a new program may pass the first two tests but fail the third.

Simon says: Embrace the opportunity.

Data governance has never been easy, and the twin explosions of technology and data have arguably made things even more difficult. Still, there's an opportunity for organizations to distinguish themselves from their peers. More than ever, organizations can differentiate themselves through their data governance efforts. If communicated well, these efforts may allow organizations to avoid PR gaffes and earn the trust of their customers.

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About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of seven management books, most recently Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It. He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, and technology. His contributions have been featured on The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. In the fall of 2016, he joined the faculty at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business (Department of Information Systems).

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