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Data governance sets clear standards for data processing across your organization, with a focus on improving data quality and consistency. To achieve data goals, data governance programs involve tools and processes to help you manage data throughout the data’s lifecycle, from acquisition to disposal.

Data governance relies heavily on people and processes, but successful data governance programs also require strong data governance tools. A variety of vendors and open source communities provide tools to help businesses implement data governance policies that make sense for their business needs.

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What are data governance tools?

If a data governance program “includes best practices, policies and procedures that protect the confidentiality and integrity of a company’s data,” as Aminu Abdullahi has described, then data governance tools enable an organization to build and manage the policies and processes within such a program.

Data governance best practices and associated tools have changed considerably over recent years as the nature and use of data have changed. As Forrester principal analyst Achim Granzen has outlined in The Forrester Wave™ for Data Governance Solutions, data governance tools have evolved from an “initial technical focus to include data privacy, protection and sovereignty.”

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As companies seek to put data to use in newer business technologies like machine learning, it’s become even more important for organizations to pick tools that not only help to control the flow of data throughout an organization but also to ensure data can be accessed securely and freely by an ever-growing population of users.

Key features of a data governance tool

Given that data governance has moved well beyond MDM, modern data governance tools are as concerned with keeping data moving to the right people or places within an organization as they are with data protection. According to Forrester, leading data governance tool providers have “added collaboration features to get data governance closer to where the tribal knowledge and expertise lives.”

To make data more broadly accessible, data governance tools are increasingly including policy and stewardship management capabilities, thus simplifying access for a wider variety of user roles. Additionally, data governance tools often have AI/ML and associated capabilities built in.

Data governance tool capabilities for businesses to consider

For these reasons, companies looking for a strong data governance solution should consider those that:

Democratize access to and collaboration with data

This includes providing accurate data for business decisions, thereby helping “organizations to become data driven at scale,” according to Forrester.

Allow the flexibility of “adaptive governance” and balance demands

As Gartner has articulated, companies should be able to tweak their operating model through data governance tools to match the evolving needs of the business. There is no “set it and forget it” in modern data governance. This means that while data governance tools must do the basics well, they must also map well to the business’ strategy.

Companies should also balance the demands for greater access with continued requirements for privacy and control. “The most advanced data governance solutions enable organizations to take accountability seriously and address increasing regulatory involvement and consumer demand,” Forrester said.

Who uses data governance tools?

As TechRepublic has outlined, there are at least four key constituencies that will use or rely upon data governance tools. These include:

  • Chief data officer: Helps set policies, strategies and plans for the business.
  • Data governance manager and team: Establishes processes and tools to enable access, usage, storage, retention, transfer and deletion of data across organizational boundaries.
  • Data governance committee: Monitors the implementation process and provides the top-down stamp of authority to facilitate data governance policies.
  • Data steward: Oversees the quality of individual data elements.

Although not everyone in an organization will directly access a data governance tool, the population of users who rely on such tooling keeps growing. Depending on the organization, the primary users of a particular tool might be a business team hoping to put data to use in decision-making, an IT taskforce seeking to improve operations or data scientists building ML models. Businesses that are trying to choose between data governance solutions should consider their primary audience and fit the tool to the audience rather than the audience to the tool.

What are the benefits of using data governance tools?

Given the rising importance of data to every business, the benefits of strong data governance extend to all. While not every company will have stringent data privacy needs, nearly all organizations benefit from improved data quality, lower data management costs and more predictable access to data throughout an organization. The best data governance tools break down silos between teams within a company and make it easier for them to securely share and collaborate on data to drive greater customer success.

Disclosure: I work for MongoDB but the views expressed herein are mine.