Building a sustainable data governance framework with collective responsibility

Building a sustainable data governance framework with collective responsibilityIn the big data era, organizations have to manage massive amounts of structured and unstructured data pouring from different sources. A comprehensive and sustainable data governance framework can be a blessing to them. It helps safeguard the integrity, security and quality of data, as well as gains a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

Designing and implementing a data governance framework is not easy. It is a cultural journey in which collective responsibility is necessary. This was the insight shared by the panelists at the Big Data & Business Analytics Forum 2017 in Hong Kong in the middle of this month. 

A journey of cultural change

Building a data governance framework in an enterprise has to start with a good understanding of data.

“We have to start by first visualizing the data in a manner where businesses can understand and make some sense,” said Ritesh Sarda, CIO at Sun Life Financial (pictured, far right). “Once we have a better sense, we can then start looking at data governance.”

Stephen Langley (pictured, second from left), Securities and Futures Commission (SFC)’s deputy CIO agreed that the key to data governance is a good understanding of data. It is also a cultural journey for an enterprise.

“We are a very conservative organization with lots of lawyers and prosecutors. They tend to be secretive people. They have the same approach to data,” said Langley. By clearly defining the types of data that are secret, not secret and how to share data, data governance allows them to have comfort in sharing data.

With a data governance framework in place, Langley said information can now be found much easier, reducing the amount of time people need to find information in daily work. Data governance is also a necessary foundation in SFC’s overall data analytics journey.

“Data governance is not a project. It’s something you constantly do. It constantly changes and is organic,” he noted.

Sharing the same sentiment with Langley, QBE Insurance’s global head of data strategy and governance Ramkumar Venkatachalam (pictured, second from right) noted data governance is about cultural transformation.

QBE Insurance started to adopt a group-wide common data strategy two years ago, which includes minimum principles to govern critical data. These principles cover the management of data lifecycle including the ways data are collected, organized, classified, stored and used.

“We cannot govern all the data, we can only identify the critical data that are important for an organization and then support that with technologies,” said Venkatachalam.

Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) believes in a forward-looking data governance framework.

“What will data look like in your organization in the future? If you don't think far ahead, you will be forever catching up,” said Damian Lum (pictured, middle), enterprise architect, strategy & governance at HKJC.

Data ownership is a key challenge

The panelists pointed out that data ownership is a key challenge when designing a data governance framework.

“Nobody wants to own data but everyone wants to use data,” said QBE Insurance’s Venkatachalam. “Think about data as blood flowing through our body. Do you think of blood everyday? You don’t.”