5 Steps to Creating a Successful Data Governance Policy


Data is the lifeblood of your organization. It sets the foundation for new business initiatives, workflows, and innovations. As it grows exponentially, its value also grows immeasurably—that is, if it is effectively managed. But explosive data growth means that although data is an incredibly valuable asset for organizations, it’s also potentially a liability if organizations can’t control and use it.

With the proliferation of business data, it’s easier than ever for organizations to become data hoarders, making it more difficult to mine data for value and raising the risks and potential stakes of data breaches and data loss.

The costs of poorly managed data are staggering. Researchers have been warning organizations about the cost of poor data quality for years, ever since IBM estimated that low-quality data cost businesses $3.1 trillion across the US in 2016. More recently, Gartner reported that poor data quality costs organizations an average of $12.9 million per year—and that was in 2021. With recent inflation, how high are those numbers today?

Organizations need to establish a robust data governance policy to manage and protect their data—but how? That’s what we’ll cover in this blog. First, we’ll explain what data governance is and discuss why it’s important to manage your organization’s data. We’ll then set out five steps to building an effective data governance policy and point out how technology can help organizations better manage their data.


What is data governance?

Why do you need a data governance policy?

How a proper data governance policy facilitates better corporate data management practices

What are the components of a data governance policy?

Standards that should inform your data governance policy

5 steps to creating an effective data governance policy

How IPRO helps organizations improve their data governance

What is data governance?

Data governance is the process of managing the availability, usability, integrity, and security of an organization’s data. It involves defining policies, procedures, and guidelines to ensure that data is managed effectively throughout its lifecycle, from creation to archival or deletion. Typically, a cross-functional team of stakeholders from IT, legal, compliance, and business units defines and enforces data governance standards.

The purpose behind data governance is establishing a set of standards to manage and protect an organization’s data assets. These standards include processes for identifying and managing data ownership, data quality, data security, and regulatory compliance. These are the key components of an effective data governance policy.

Why do you need a data governance policy?

A data governance policy provides a framework for managing data throughout its lifecycle. It ensures that organizations manage their data effectively and securely and that they satisfy data-related legal and regulatory requirements.

Specifically, a data governance policy can help organizations achieve the following goals:

●       ensuring that data is accurate, complete, and consistent;

●       making it easier to find data and unlock its value for better decision-making;

●       improving compliance with data management regulations, such as data privacy laws;

●       reducing the risk of data breaches and the unauthorized access, use, or loss of data;

●       building a data governance framework that can inspire trust in stakeholders, including customers, partners, and government agencies; and

●       safeguarding the organization’s reputation.

Given the importance of these goals, now is the right time for organizations to establish a data governance policy if they don’t already have one in place. Data governance policies are foundational documents that organizations should implement as soon as they begin generating data—which is on day one.

Organizations should revisit their policy whenever they notice data quality issues, become subject to new regulatory requirements, expand their operations, or undergo a merger or acquisition to ensure that they are fostering sound data management practices.

How a proper data governance policy facilitates better corporate data management practices

A proper data governance policy can facilitate better corporate data management practices in several ways:

●       It establishes data management practices and procedures that should be applied consistently throughout an organization, ensuring that data is managed efficiently, accurately, and consistently.

●       It defines the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in data management, preventing confusion.

●       It improves the accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. Setting clear standards and procedures for data entry, validation, and maintenance leads to higher data quality and reliability.

●       It helps prevent unauthorized access to data by defining security procedures and policies for data storage, transmission, and access.

●       It promotes collaboration among departments and teams in an organization. By establishing a common set of standards and practices, the policy can break down silos.

The prerequisite to attaining all of these goals is ensuring that an organization’s data governance policy has all of the elements essential to maintain and protect an organization’s information.

What are the components of a data governance policy?

The strongest data governance policies establish policy objectives, define their scope, set standards for rules for data quality, and establish procedures to spot issues and enforce requirements.

Policy objectives

This section outlines the policy’s objectives, including its purpose. For example, a data governance policy might focus on reducing risks, increasing data value, or strengthening compliance.

Policy scope

The scope of your data governance policy sets forth what types of data are covered by the policy. It should also define the role of each stakeholder in the policy, including data owners, data stewards, and data users. Some organizations may establish a cross-functional data governance committee to prioritize data management initiatives and develop processes for solution implementation.

Data-related standards

The policy should set standards, including criteria for data accuracy, completeness, consistency, and timeliness. It should detail policies and procedures for data access and usage. It should also include policies and procedures for data security and privacy, including measures to prevent unauthorized access, ensure confidentiality, and safeguard against data breaches. Additionally, it should define data retention and disposal procedures, including criteria for how long data should be retained.

Monitoring and enforcement

The policy should establish procedures for monitoring compliance, including consequences for failing to follow protocols, and a cadence for reviewing and updating the policy.

But the strongest data governance policies do more than include these components. They also address their view of five key rules that underpin data governance.

Standards that should inform your data governance policy

A sound data governance policy should establish the organization’s position on a series of data-related standards.

●      Data quality: Outline relevant criteria for data accuracy, completeness, consistency, and timeliness

●      Data security and privacy: Define critical measures to prevent unauthorized access, ensure data confidentiality, and protect against data breaches

●      Data retention and disposal: Establish a set of criteria for determining how long users should retain data and how they should dispose of it

●      Data access and use: Set rules for granting data access and guidelines for how data should be used

●      Data classification: Describe how to classify and manage data based on its sensitivity or criticality

●      Data ownership and stewardship: Specify the roles and responsibilities of data owners and data stewards

●      Data analytics and reporting: Explain the tools and processes that should be used to analyze and report on data

●      Data audit and compliance: Define data audit procedures to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards

A good data governance policy should be viewed as a long-term data governance program for your company rather than a short-term fix. Implementing the right policy means more than changes to procedures and practices; it’s a structural change to your company. Data governance challenges are not always easy to solve, but with the right people and technology, creating effective procedures can quickly lead to improved outcomes.

5 steps to creating an effective data governance policy

How can you construct a data governance policy that serves your organization well? Start with these five steps.

1. Assess your existing data governance policy.

Before you can implement a solution, you need to identify the problem—or, more likely, the problems. What data-related challenges are you facing? Where does your current policy fall short? Create a comprehensive list of your data struggles and problem areas to ensure that the new policy you create addresses all of those challenges.

2. Build your team.

Start from the top: is leadership on board with the proposed changes to your data governance policy? If not, you’ll need to win their support before you go any further. Once you have executive buy-in, assemble a data governance team of stakeholders to inform the new policy. Involve different business units to ensure that you have a full 360-degree view of your business and its data.

3. Collect information.

Now it’s time to find out what your policy should say and what needs to change. What does your organization need to use its data for? What laws, rules, or regulations do you need to comply with as you collect, use, store, and dispose of data? Compare these notes with the notes you created as you evaluated your current policy. What do you need for your new policy to cover, and how will it improve on your existing policy? Take advantage of your diverse stakeholders to gather information about how different departments and business areas use data and what difficulties they encounter.

3. Draft your new data governance policy.

At this point, you know where you are, and you know where you want to be. Combine all of the knowledge you’ve gathered to create a comprehensive yet digestible governance policy. As you’re drafting, ask for feedback from the employees who will have to implement each part of the policy. Can they understand what you’re asking them to do? If not, simplify and restructure your policy until it’s straightforward enough for all of your employees to understand how it affects their work.

4. Implement your new policy.

Once you have a final draft, it’s time to put it in place. Choose an effective date and let your people know that they’ll need to follow the new policy at that point. Consider providing training sessions so everyone understands how the policy works and how it affects their data and data management practices. If the policy represents a considerable departure from your previous approach to data governance, it may be worthwhile to engage in a full campaign to educate employees about the change.

Of course, creating a new policy doesn’t mean you’re done with data governance once and for all. Managing business data well is an ongoing process. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you keep your data safe, secure, accessible, and compliant.

How IPRO helps organizations improve their data governance

Data is constantly expanding and changing, with new applications generating new data types and formats every day. That means the tools you use for data governance should be flexible and adaptable to meet your evolving needs.

Modern data governance tools offer a variety of features for everything from information retention and archiving to data access controls and data risk remediation. The right data governance tools can help you reduce storage costs, maintain compliance with industry standards and applicable laws and regulations, and mitigate security risks. The result? Managing your constantly growing data without your data budget constantly growing to keep pace.

IPRO offers a range of information governance solutions that can support organizations in improving every aspect of their data governance practices. IPRO’s tools help organizations:

●      retain data cost-effectively when it is needed to ensure compliance,

●      preserve data defensibly when it may be relevant to litigation,

●      secure protected sensitive data and private information,

●      view and analyze all business data where it resides,

●      respond with confidence to data subject access requests (DSARs),

●      mitigate the risk of data breaches, and

●      dispose of data safely when it no longer serves a business purpose.

For more information about IPRO and its proven data governance solutions, contact us or schedule a demonstration today.