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Dirty Data No More: Five Tips for Data Governance

Dirty Data No More: Five Tips for Data Governance

Making sure your data gets and stays clean requires the right approach to data governance.

Despite the idea that business intelligence is a crucial tool for getting and keeping customers, adequately measuring company performance, and delivering flexibility, challenges remain. One of the most important: data governance.

Although data governance is crucial to successful BI and data warehouse efforts, it isn't easy. To the rescue: five dirty data practices you may be guilty of, and five ways to clean them up.

Dirty Data Practice No. 1

You think buying the coolest business intelligence tool is all you need.

It may be a truism that your BI reporting tools are only as good as the information you feed them (that is, "garbage in, garbage out"), but that doesn't mean that the right actions are a given. Since most organizations still take an isolated view of data, data governance remains a difficulty, says Ian Charlesworth, principal analyst with IT consultancy Ovum. Data is all too often siloed in different business units and is entered, treated and viewed differently, making "one version of the truth" impossible.

Clean It Up

Know your data.

The first step of data governance is to establish a clear view of your data; find out what you have, how reliable the information is, what data is beneficial but previously unused, which data is corrupted and which IT projects are duplicating information. And be sure to communicate to stakeholders the cost of not having data governance and the value of creating it.

Dirty Data Practice No. 2

You procrastinate until you can do a complete overhaul.

An all-or-nothing approach is almost guaranteed to fail. For starters, bringing all data under control in one fell swoop is not realistic given time and money constraints, and in organizations where such an overhaul is possible, user resistance is almost a given.

Clean It Up

Start small, think big.

Instead of all or nothing, prioritize the most crucial aspects of data governance, in keeping with your overarching vision. For example, Charlesworth recommends focusing on four key areas.

  • Create data quality processes and procedures, and where possible embed these at the point of data creation or capture. For example, create a data validation routine in an order entry system or establish a corporate standard for name and address nomenclature.

  • Assign a data steward. This person should be someone from within the business who can champion and enforce data quality practices throughout the business. This person should have an intimate knowledge of how and where the data will be used by the business, and who can act as a liaison between the business and IT.

  • Create a master data management solution. For starters, this means assigning unique identifiers to core information assets across the business, such as service codes, customer definitions and so on.

  • Integrate metadata. Metadata gives important information to both IT and the business, puts complex information into layman's terms and relays vital information about underlying data syntax, semantic correctness and so on.

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