Data governance is a group of processes and practices to ensure an organization is effectively and efficiently using its data assets to achieve its business goals. 

Often data governance includes such concepts as data quality and data stewardship to enable a company to better control its enterprise data assets. This ensures proper data management. Data governance supports metadata management, regulatory compliance, master data management (MDM), and data lifecycle management.

Data governance also deals with data privacy and data security across an enterprise. It also details who can take what action, on what data, in what situations, using what methods.

Any company that works with big data will benefit from a data governance strategy as it details how uniform, common processes and responsibilities can help an organization operate more efficiently.

Without an effective data governance program, an organization might not be able to resolve data inconsistencies in different systems throughout the business. For example, customer names listed differently in the sales and customer service systems may cause problems with data integration and data integrity, affecting the accuracy of reporting, business intelligence, and analytics applications.

Inadequate data governance may also hinder regulatory compliance efforts, leading to issues for companies that need to comply with data privacy and protection laws, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Generally, a data governance program consists of a governing body, a governance office, a collection of established data governance processes and a plan to implement these data governance processes. A data governance program also includes data management and information technology teams and employees from the operations side of the business.

A data governance framework establishes the guidelines, processes, organizational structures, and rules implemented as part of the data governance program. The data governance framework determines data ownership, addresses data inconsistencies across different departments, and helps an organization deal with big data needs to realize the many benefits of big data. 

Various vendors offer data governance software tools to help organizations automate the management of their data governance programs. Data governance tools can also be used along with tools for data quality, metadata management, and MDM.

The benefits of a data governance program include enhanced data quality, lower data management costs, and improved access to essential data for data scientists, analysts, and business users. A successful data governance program can enable better data policies, and thus, decision-making, because executives also have access to better data.