Data Governance – Key Questions to Ensure Effective Delivery

We’re joined by Michael Queenan of Nephos Technologies for this guest spotlight. Michael argues that there are fundamental questions to answer when reassessing your data governance process. Here’s where to start…

Data governance has become a huge headache for many organisations looking to balance opportunity against risk. The challenges are significant – for instance, how do they know that the correct version of their data is being analysed? How can they be confident that their data governance processes are compliant? And how do they drive value from data when they don’t know what they hold?

Get the fundamentals right, however, and organisations can look forward to a range of benefits from boosting the quality and accuracy of data to improving the scope to make informed, data-led decisions and maximising profits.

Where Should You Begin?

Key to the entire process are the big questions organisations ask themselves when embarking on a data governance project or wider strategy. Often overlooked is careful consideration of a basic and fundamental point: ‘why?’ What is driving the need to focus on data governance, what are the implications of that requirement and have decision-makers fully considered the opportunities and risks of their directives?

While some are motivated by an overarching need for compliance, to deliver business value or for more tactical reasons such as protecting a specific data lake, all too often decisions are taken to tick the governance box or in response to a 10,000-foot view from senior leadership.

The reasons for embarking on a governance project can be nuanced and priorities may also include understanding where the biggest data assets reside or where the greatest areas of corporate risk exist, among many others. But starting without proper consideration of objectives, strategy, technology requirements and processes can create significant risk.

But it’s not uncommon for organisations to skip these steps and buy data governance software tools without detailed forward planning about how they will be used. Putting the cart before the horse like this can mean that the tools determine what outcomes are possible, and this can be incompatible with even the most generic data governance goals. As a result, those put in charge of ‘delivering governance’ get lost in an ill-defined process using tools that don’t have an actual purpose.

Some organisations need to take greater active control of all of their data assets, others need to focus on how governance can improve their ability to focus on Business Intelligence and insight.

Michael Queenan
CEO & Co-Founder, Nephos Technologies Ltd


Fail to plan . . .

Planning is essential because once an organisation chooses a path for their data governance efforts, it becomes much more complicated to switch to another if objectives change down the line. For instance, if the priority is very focused, such as delivering tick box compliance, teams shouldn’t get side-tracked by also trying to drive value, because in data governance terms, this is a fundamentally different challenge.

Similarly, consider the issues at play when focusing on data governance to drive business value above all else. The starting point here is to determine what represents ‘value’? While some organisations need to take greater active control of all of their data assets, others need to focus on how governance can improve their ability to focus on Business Intelligence and insight. Others want to understand where their biggest data assets are, where corporate risk is present or even who is the application owner for the biggest customer? Each of these can help lead to a useful definition of what represents value.

So, where should organisations start? Many have found that merely focusing on compliance in isolation is an expensive proposition, where demonstrating ROI can be nebulous at best. Organisations feel stung by the cost of these poor decision-making processes and lose enthusiasm when their expensive software tools don’t deliver anything tangible. The unfortunate result is that governance gets pigeon-holed as a bad experience that they’ll return to only if there’s no choice.

Instead, and before making any spending commitments, teams should step back and really focus on ‘why’ data governance is on their ‘to do’ list. They should be prepared to challenge vague objectives that say, ‘it’s something the organisation needs to do’, and instead dig deeper into the precise outcomes required.

A Clearer Way Forward

While lack of experience can explain the problems some teams have with making data governance deliver value, those who invest in the planning processes, as well as the tools, will always end up with a better outcome than those who don’t.

And by doing so, organisations can move forward with confidence that data governance efforts can deliver on a well-defined set of objectives. They can make technology investments that align with their goals, avoid the need to remedial overspend and deliver projects that demonstrate genuine value.


Michael Queenan
CEO & Co-Founder, Nephos Technologies Ltd

Michael Queenan is the CEO and co-founder of Nephos Technologies, founded in 2013. Michael is responsible for the overall strategy, direction and branding at Nephos, identifying future trends and building centres of excellence to deliver on those trends.