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Data governance is a control that ensures that the data entry by an operations team member or by an automated process meets precise standards, such as a business rule, a data definition and data integrity constraints in the data model. The data governor uses data quality monitoring against production data to communicate errors in data back to operational team members, or to the technical support team, for corrective action. Data governance is used by organizations to exercise control over processes and methods used by their data stewards and data custodians in order to improve data quality.
Bob Seiner in his book Non-Invasive Data Governance states, "Data governance is the formal execution and enforcement of authority over the management of data and data related assets." Seiner adds "By including the term, 'governance,' data governance requires the administration of something. In this case, data governance refers to administering, or formalizing, discipline (behavior) around the management of data."
Data governance is a set of processes that ensures that important data assets are formally managed throughout the enterprise. Data governance ensures that data can be trusted and that people can be made accountable for any adverse event that happens because of low data quality. It is about putting people in charge of fixing and preventing issues with data so that the enterprise can become more efficient. Data governance also describes an evolutionary process for a company, altering the company’s way of thinking and setting up the processes to handle information so that it may be utilized by the entire organization. It’s about using technology when necessary in many forms to help aid the process. When companies desire, or are required, to gain control of their data, they empower their people, set up processes and get help from technology to do it.
There are some commonly cited vendor definitions for data governance. Data governance is a quality control discipline for assessing, managing, using, improving, monitoring, maintaining, and protecting organizational information. It is a system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes, executed according to agreed-upon models which describe who can take what actions with what information, and when, under what circumstances, using what methods.:
Data governance encompasses the people, processes, and information technology required to create a consistent and proper handling of an organization's data across the business enterprise. Goals may be defined at all levels of the enterprise and doing so may aid in acceptance of processes by those who will use them. Some goals include:
- Increasing consistency and confidence in decision making
- Decreasing the risk of regulatory fines
- Improving data security, also defining and verifying the requirements for data distribution policies
- Maximizing the income generation potential of data
- Designating accountability for information quality
- Enable better planning by supervisory staff
- Minimizing or eliminating re-work
- Optimize staff effectiveness
- Establish process performance baselines to enable improvement efforts
- Acknowledge and hold all gain
These goals are realized by the implementation of Data governance programs, or initiatives using Change Management techniques.
Data governance drivers
While data governance initiatives can be driven by a desire to improve data quality, they are more often driven by C-Level leaders responding to external regulations. Examples of these regulations include Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel I, Basel II, HIPAA, and a number of data privacy regulations. To achieve compliance with these regulations, business processes and controls require formal management processes to govern the data subject to these regulations. Successful programs identify drivers meaningful to both supervisory and executive leadership.
Common themes among the external regulations center on the need to manage risk. The risks can be financial misstatement, inadvertent release of sensitive data, or poor data quality for key decisions. Methods to manage these risks vary from industry to industry. Examples of commonly referenced best practices and guidelines include COBIT, ISO/IEC 38500, and others. The proliferation of regulations and standards creates challenges for data governance professionals, particularly when multiple regulations overlap the data being managed. Organizations often launch data governance initiatives to address these challenges.
Data governance initiatives
Data governance initiatives improve data quality by assigning a team responsible for data's accuracy, accessibility, consistency, and completeness, among other metrics. This team usually consists of executive leadership, project management, line-of-business managers, and data stewards. The team usually employs some form of methodology for tracking and improving enterprise data, such as Six Sigma, and tools for data mapping, profiling, cleansing, and monitoring data.
Data governance initiatives may be aimed at achieving a number of objectives including offering better visibility to internal and external customers (such as supply chain management), compliance with regulatory law, improving operations after rapid company growth or corporate mergers, or to aid the efficiency of enterprise knowledge workers by reducing confusion and error and increasing their scope of knowledge. Many data governance initiatives are also inspired by past attempts to fix information quality at the departmental level, leading to incongruent and redundant data quality processes. Most large companies have many applications and databases that can't easily share information. Therefore, knowledge workers within large organizations often don't have access to the information they need to best do their jobs. When they do have access to the data, the data quality may be poor. By setting up a data governance practice or Corporate Data Authority, these problems can be mitigated.
The structure of a data governance initiative will vary not only with the size of the organization, but with the desired objectives or the 'focus areas'  of the effort.
Implementation of a Data Governance initiative may vary in scope as well as origin. Sometimes, an executive mandate will arise to initiate an enterprise wide effort, sometimes the mandate will be to create a pilot project or projects, limited in scope and objectives, aimed at either resolving existing issues or demonstrating value. Sometimes an initiative will originate lower down in the organization’s hierarchy, and will be deployed in a limited scope to demonstrate value to potential sponsors higher up in the organization. The initial scope of an implementation can vary greatly as well, from review of a one-off IT system, to a cross-organization initiative.
Data governance tools
Leaders of successful data governance programs declared in December 2006 at the Data Governance Conference in Orlando, Fl, that data governance is between 80 and 95 percent communication.” That stated, it is a given that many of the objectives of a Data Governance program must be accomplished with appropriate tools. Many vendors are now positioning their products as Data Governance tools; due to the different focus areas of various data governance initiatives, any given tool may or may not be appropriate, in addition, many tools that are not marketed as governance tools address governance needs.
Data governance organizations
- DAMA International
- DAMA (the Data Management Association) is a not-for-profit, vendor-independent, international association of technical and business professionals dedicated to advancing the concepts and practices of information resource management (IRM) and data resource management (DRM).
- Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO)
- The Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO) is a non-profit, vendor neutral, association of business, IT and data professionals dedicated to advancing the discipline of data governance. The objective of the DGPO is to provide a forum that fosters discussion and networking for members and to encourage, develop and advance the skills of members working in the data governance discipline.
- The Data Governance Society 
- The Data Governance Society, Inc. is dedicated to fostering a new paradigm for the effective use and protection of information in which Data is governed and leveraged as a unique corporate asset.
- The IBM Data Governance Council 
- The IBM Data Governance Council is an organization formed by IBM consisting of companies, institutions and technology solution providers with the stated objective to build consistency and quality control in governance, which will help companies better protect critical data."
- International Association for Information and Data Quality (IAIDQ)
- IAIDQ is a not-for-profit, vendor neutral, professional association formed in 2004, dedicated to building the information and data quality profession.
Data governance conferences
A number of major conferences relevant to data governance are held annually:
- Data Governance and Information Quality Conference
- Commercial conferences held each year in the USA
- Data Governance Conference Europe,
- Commercial conferences held annually in London, England .
- Information and Data Quality Conference
- Not for profit conference run annually by IAIDQ in the USA
- Master Data Management & Data Governance Conferences
- Six major conferences are run annually by the MDM Institute in London, San Francisco, Sydney, Toronto, Madrid, Frankfurt, and New York City.
- Financial Information Summit series of conferences
- Hosted by Inside Reference Data magazine in New York, London, Hong Kong, Toronto, Chicago, Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo.
- Information Architecture
- Information technology governance
- Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules
- Master data management
- ISO/IEC 38500
- ISO/TC 215
- Operational risk management
- Basel II Accord
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Information technology controls
- Data Protection Directive (EU)
- Universal Data Element Framework
- Asset Description Metadata Schema
- "Non-Invasive Data Governance".
- Sarsfield, Steve (2009). "The Data Governance Imperative", IT Governance.
- "The DGI Data Governance Framework" (PDF).
- Gianni, D., (2015, Jan). Data Policy Definition and Verification for System of Systems Governance, in Modeling and Simulation Support for System of Systems Engineering 
- 'Rimes Data Governance Handbook' RIMES
- "Data Governance Focus Areas".
- Hopwood, Peter (June 2008). "Data Governance: One Size Does Not Fit All". DM Review Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
At the inaugural Data Governance Conference in Orlando, Florida, in December 2006, leaders of successful data governance programs declared that in their experience, data governance is between 80 and 95 percent communication. Clearly, data governance is not a typical IT project.
- "DataGovernanceSoftware.com". The Data Governance Institute. Archived from the original on 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- DAMA International
- Data Governance Professionals Organization
- Data Governance Society
- IBM Data Governance
- International Association for Information and Data Quality
- Data Governance and Information Quality Conference
- Data Governance Conference Europe
- Information and Data Quality Conference
- MDM SUMMIT Conference