Big bang: using data governance to prevent data disasters

When data is handled incorrectly by a business, there can – broadly speaking – be three outcomes. None of them are good. In our latest blog we explore how to use data governance to prevent data disasters that might otherwise have explosive consequences.

When you’re working with chemicals, one wrong move, mis-read digit or rogue spark can make a big difference. Fail to add enough sodium bicarbonate to water and flour, and your bread won’t rise. Accidentally use bleach and ammonia in the same bathroom, and you create the highly toxic chloramine. Spill sulfuric and nitric acids near a naked flame and, well, you’ve activated TNT.

The same is true with data. It might sound ridiculous to compare letters and numbers in a database to something that can burn your eyebrows off, but data can be volatile – and a small mistake can have explosive results for your business.

Data governance, as you’re about to find out, is you best defence against a data disaster. If you’re already spooked enough to skip straight to the solution, download our 5 tips for better data governance. Otherwise, grab your safety goggles and join us for a lesson in data safety.

The explosive impact of bad data

When data is handled incorrectly by a business, there can – broadly speaking – be three outcomes. None of them are good.

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One, your data project simply fails to work the way it should and doesn’t really change anything. For instance, an expensive Machine Learning system doesn’t deliver its promised cost-savings thanks to the poor data fuelling it.

Two, it slowly creates problems, with bad data seeping into business decision-making and causing a long-term impact that can take weeks, months, or even years to become apparent. Similar to the gradual (and unpleasant) realisation you’ve mixed a noxious gas in your shower tray.

Three, it blows up, big time, with one piece of rogue data causing an instant, catastrophic impact, such as a GDPR mistake that costs the business thousands in penalties (not to mention the lasting damage to customer trust).

So, how can you make sure that your data doesn’t blow up in your face (figuratively) and instead creates the reaction you want: fuelling better decisions and driving business goals?

A lesson from the lab: data governance

In a laboratory, chemists have strict rules that govern how they handle chemicals. Everyone working in that lab, from the Chief Technician to the cleaner, understands the importance of those rules, and what the risks are if they don’t follow them.

When it comes to data in a business, the same is not always the case. Data is used, managed and uploaded across the entire organisation, but the importance of that data and the consequences of good and bad data on business objectives aren’t recognised. The result is bad habits that lead to poor data quality, which in turn leads to big problems for data-led projects.

But in order for businesses to get the full impact from their data, and avoid data mistakes, businesses need their own set of rules that govern how data is handled, ensuring it can be a useful resource, not a volatile substance.

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Data Governance provides a set of protocols that govern how data is managed within a business, to ensure that every person and computer system manages data correctly, to maintain data quality and get the right results from data. For any data-led initiative to work, data governance is crucial to making sure that data quality is managed and maintained.

Embarking on an internal Data Governance initiative isn’t always easy, but to help you get started, we’ve pulled together our 5 tips for better data governance. Download the guide to take the first step to averting an avoidable data disaster.

5 tips for better Data Governance