The speed of technology advancement has made it easier than ever to share information throughout corporations, and the sheer volume of the data at your fingertips may seem overwhelming. Those advances, however, might leave your organization in a situation where all that data has become more than you can easily track and control. 

How can you be sure that every piece of data in your organization is secure? The first step in any successful compliance or data protection program is data governance. 

What Is Data Governance?

Data governance is a method by which all the data owned by and connected to your company is tracked and organized. It establishes ownership, and determines where data is stored and how it is protected. 

Without this sort of framework in place, data can be stolen, go missing, or become corrupted without your knowledge. Those possibilities pose serious threats to regulatory compliance and risk management, so your best defense against them is a strong data governance program. 

Governance can also aid your master data management (MDM) by making rules and procedures that will assure that the data assets you have are consistent and accurate. It can uncover duplicates and help you eliminate errors (changes in customer names and addresses, for example). This aspect of data governance is helpful to narrow your scope and determine what data security measures your company should take to best protect customers’ personal data. 

Why Is Data Governance Important for Data Protection?

Data protection is key to preserving your customer base and acquiring new business. Your clients want to know that their sensitive information will be protected, and they’re likely to take their business elsewhere if you’re unable to prove that data is safe. 

Data governance enters that picture not only because it helps you ascertain that every piece of data is protected and accounted for; it can also help you develop the metrics necessary to prove that your controls are effective.

Governance will also help you keep track of which privacy regulations you need to meet. For instance, if your organization stores data from customers in the European Union, you need to abide by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These regulatory requirements differ from most American equivalents and include a broader definition of what constitutes personal information. Your governance program will help you organize your data, which will in turn keep you informed of what requirements you need to meet. 

How Can Data Governance Aid Compliance?

Compliance audits can be a stressful experience. Regulatory compliance is an intricate process that requires information you might not have readily at hand. Instead of scrambling to determine which areas need your attention, imagine that the information required for your audit was already at your fingertips. 

Appropriate data governance processes can alleviate audit stress by ensuring that the data your company owns is organized and accounted for. Instead of organizing the data when you need it, the data is consistently managed, updated, and protected throughout the year. At any given time you’ll have the tools to address issues and potential barriers to compliance.

What Are Some Data Governance Best Practices?

Each data governance program will be unique to its individual company. Your program will have different needs based on the type of data you have, how much data you have, and how that data is processed. Some practices, however, are good to keep in mind no matter what kind of organization you work for. For example:

  • Hire a chief data officer and create governance positions within the company. While it may not be necessary for every company, designating a “CDO” can be a first step in creating your governance program. The person in this position will be instrumental in structuring a framework that’s appropriate for your entire organization, as well as assigning responsibilities and tracking progress.
  • Identify ownership. Governance should not be a centralized endeavor. While a CDO or governance team will be integral in developing your framework, it’s important to assign ownership of sensitive data to staff members and departments. 
  • Cataloging, classification, and tagging. No matter what your company’s goals may be, the organization of your data is a crucial step to appropriate governance. This is another component of governance that will look different for each individual company. Consider factors like the lifecycle of the data, as well as confidentiality and potential for risk. Creating these categories and organizing your data will make it easier to track it as you move forward. 
  • Determine how you will measure progress. What will a successful data governance program look like? It might mean educating a certain percentage of your staff on compliance, or a measurable reduction in risk. No matter what your specific organization needs, it’s best to determine your success markers up front. This will enable you to set goals and prove to executives and clients alike that your governance efforts are sound. 
  • Create clear lines of communication. Perhaps the most important principle of data governance is communication. An organization without a governance program will likely have no central hub where data storage and ownership is tracked. This leads to data loss and confusion, and will create headaches for your company in the event of an audit.

If your company is growing, chances are that your data is accumulating faster than you can track. Even the most concise governance programs can be rendered ineffective by outdated tools and organizational systems. If your team is still depending on spreadsheets and shared documents, you may find yourself defeated by Big Data before you even begin. 

ZenGRC is a single integrated platform for tracking and organizing your company’s data. It can help you automate governance procedures, consolidate proof of compliance, and expose security risks before they become liabilities. Schedule a demo to learn more about how ZenGRC can help you create the best data governance framework for your company.