What is dirty data costing your company? Inefficiencies, lost revenue opportunities or less-successful marketing campaigns are just a few of the challenges that businesses must overcome in the way they manage and govern their data quality.
When combined with the use of data quality solutions, establishing and enforcing a data governance program can help a business get more value from its data and avoid the costly mistakes that can lead to billing issues and lost clients.
"Data errors cause significant business issues each year," Maria C. Villar and Theresa C. Kushner write for Information Management. These problems can include billing mistakes (resulting in lost revenue) and sending incorrect communications to clients, which may drive them to take their business elsewhere. "Many companies start data governance programs when data errors lead to these serious business issues," the authors observe. They note that data quality maintenance is similar to the way an organization would manage any other asset under its jurisdiction - technology, people, capital and equipment. It requires a strategic approach and a plan to ensure that the most valuable information is "acquired, created, updated, deleted and stored with proper processes, policies and people," Villar and Kushner say.
Setting a data strategy
In order to achieve this, companies need to create a road map for sustainable data management. The authors offer a 10-step process, starting with pairing data activities with goals and business drivers (such as business intelligence or mergers and acquisitions).
Next, data quality advocates must work to get business leaders involved in the process and convince at least one person to be the head of the data governance program. From there, determine what business data is most in need of management in your company, be it contact details or product and inventory information. Then, figure out what you need the data to do for you in order to achieve the aforementioned goals. How accurate should it be? How often should it be updated?
The next step is to delegate responsibility to make sure that the data you decided was most critical is fit to meet the goals you set. After this, it will be necessary to create metrics that can tell the leaders whether the desired impact is being achieved. "Tying data governance improvements to business benefits keeps the business leaders engaged in the program because they see results that affect them," Villar and Kushner comment.
As you transition from the program setup to the maintenance stage, you will need to continue checking the metrics and adjusting the processes accordingly. In addition, take part in setting data use and management policies, standards and rules, and make sure they are being observed and enforced. Continue meeting with managers and training employees so they have the resources necessary for complying with the data governance laws.
Finally, the authors advise making sure adequate funding is available for the management of projects and resources. They acknowledge that it may be necessary to bring on new employees who have special skills or train existing staff members. Indeed, Richard H. Levey reports for Chief Marketer magazine that the Direct Marketing Association is working to equip marketers with the skills necessary to manage their data in a responsible way. The DMA's vice president of education and professional development, Gina Scala, said in an interview with Levey that marketers - not just IT professionals - need to be able to understand data governance issues in order to correctly handle and transfer data.