HomeBig DataInformation Governance Has a Severe Branding Downside - Atlan

Information Governance Has a Severe Branding Downside – Atlan


The story of the place knowledge governance began and the way the whole lot went flawed

Of all of the duties that I’ve finished within the knowledge trade, knowledge governance has actually been my least favourite. 

Laura B. Madsen, Disrupting Information Governance

Once you hear the phrase “knowledge governance”, what’s the very first thing you suppose? Guidelines or insurance policies? Processes or administration? Management?

Information governance is seen as a restrictive, bureaucratic, controlling course of — a set of restrictions dropped down from on excessive to decelerate your work. And the truth is, that’s usually the way it truly works inside organizations.

As somebody who works in knowledge governance, this makes me a bit unhappy. Governance shouldn’t be one thing that the people of information need to worry. At its coronary heart, knowledge governance isn’t about management. It’s about serving to knowledge groups work higher collectively.

So let’s break down why knowledge governance is having an id disaster, what it was truly envisioned as many years in the past, and the way we are able to save the reputations of information stewards all over the place.

The place did knowledge governance come from?

Information governance was constructed on actually cool ideas. However when you seek for the historical past of information governance, you most likely received’t get very far. There aren’t actually any suppose items tracing it again to some ridiculously early time (suppose knowledge’s roots in 20,000-year-old bones or the census’ origin in historic Egypt).

A part of the reason being that, properly, knowledge governance isn’t attractive. Few folks can stifle their yawns lengthy sufficient to delve into its current, not to mention its previous. To make issues tougher, knowledge governance got here out of information stewardship, a phrase that sounds much more dense and technical.

Ngrams for data governance vs data stewardship
Written mentions of “knowledge governance” (blue) and “knowledge stewardship” (purple) since 1990. (Picture created with Google Ngrams.)

Although “knowledge governance” took off within the mid-2000s, the concept of taming and defending knowledge (aka “knowledge stewardship”) has been round since knowledge blew up a decade earlier.

Information stewardship took place to attach the techie world of information with the non-techie world of enterprise. As Laura Madsen wrote, “Information stewards have been meant to assist solidify the squishy… They converse the language of IT and translate that again to the enterprise. The position requires the persistence of a kindergarten instructor and the power to efficiently negotiate a hostage state of affairs.”

At its core, knowledge stewardship, and later governance, was all about collaboration and democratization. Information stewards acted as a bridge between folks and course of. They deftly navigated firms by way of the issues that come up with utilizing knowledge, and introduced readability and order to the intimidating new world of huge knowledge.

Information governance as we speak: management, not collaboration

Although knowledge governance grew out of this concept of collaboration, it’s hardly ever been carried out in that approach. At this time, it’s seen extra as a technique to impose management.

Information governance initiatives are normally framed round safety and danger — we now have to manipulate our knowledge to lower our danger.

It’s no marvel that firms worry knowledge dangers. As knowledge has grown, the principles and expectations round it have skyrocketed. With fixed information about privateness breaches, individuals are turning into extra attentive to how their private knowledge is protected. In 2018, there was a “international counting on knowledge governance”, because of a number of huge knowledge breaches that destroyed the credibility and inventory values of manufacturers like Equifax, Fb, Marriott, and Yahoo. Because of this, new knowledge compliance necessities (e.g. GDPR and CCPA) are popping up every single day.

At this time, firms wish to lower the danger of displaying confidential knowledge to the flawed individual, unhealthy knowledge getting used to make huge choices, and violating necessary laws. To forestall these missteps, knowledge is surrounded by complicated safety processes and restrictions, all dictated by a distant knowledge governance workforce.

Extra knowledge governance, extra agility?

Through the years, knowledge governance has misplaced its id. We worry it, however we needs to be celebrating it — as a result of essentially it’s about creating higher knowledge groups, not controlling them.

In reality, the extra folks begin trusting knowledge governance, the extra they’ll truly have the ability to obtain. Sounds iffy? Let’s begin with an instance.

At Atlan, we began out as an information workforce ourselves. Again then we didn’t know what knowledge governance was. We simply knew that we needed to tackle huge “knowledge for good” tasks, like making a SDG monitoring platform for the United Nations or opening 10,000 new clear gas distribution facilities.

The issue was, every single day was chaos. We had collaboration overload, the place folks spent extra time making an attempt to entry or perceive the info than truly utilizing it. Our Slack was crammed with messages like “Why is knowledge lacking for 721 geographies?” or “Why are these dashboards displaying completely different numbers?”

Examples of Slack messages from a data team
Examples of Slack messages from our knowledge workforce

So we labored to repair these points, constructing inside knowledge instruments and higher processes for collaboration. Quickly sufficient, we realized that we have been carrying out tasks twice as quick with groups that have been one-third our regular measurement. We even constructed India’s nationwide knowledge platform, finished by an 8-member workforce in simply 12 months. We by no means would have been in a position to do that with out the best tooling and cultural practices governing our workforce and knowledge.

I feel that the extra that organizations begin believing in and investing in — reasonably than dreading — true knowledge governance, the extra they’ll have the ability to obtain. This implies implementing governance instruments and processes which can be agile and collaborative, reasonably than a top-down governance workforce someplace saying, “Right here’s how you’ll want to take into consideration definitions”.

The info governance renaissance within the trendy knowledge stack

In his weblog in regards to the trendy knowledge stack, Tristan talked about knowledge governance lagging behind the remainder of the trendy knowledge stack. He wrote, “Governance is a product space whose time has come… With out good governance, extra knowledge == extra chaos == much less belief.

I feel his phrases echo the broader sentiment of information groups and practitioners within the trendy knowledge stack. As knowledge groups change into extra mainstream, and the trendy knowledge stack has made it simpler to ingest and remodel knowledge, the shortage of information governance practices is without doubt one of the prime boundaries stopping knowledge groups from being agile and driving influence.

This has introduced us to a second of redemption for knowledge governance. For the primary time, the necessity for governance is being felt bottom-up by practitioners, as a substitute of being enforced top-down on account of regulation.

This bottom-up adoption is a chance for us to lastly get knowledge governance proper. Nevertheless, trendy knowledge governance for the trendy knowledge stack will look very completely different from its predecessor — and which means that we’ll have to alter the best way we method knowledge governance implementations.

The paradigm shift that knowledge governance wants as we speak

Data governance: the paradigm shift we need
From knowledge governance to “knowledge and analytics” governance

“Information” isn’t the one asset that must be ruled anymore. 

We’re shifting to an ecosystem the place knowledge property are extra than simply tables — they’re additionally dashboards, codes, fashions, and extra. All these property want holistic types of governance.

From a centralized method to a decentralized, community-led method

Centralized knowledge steward–based mostly, top-down governance fashions received’t work anymore.

The office is altering. High-down cultures are getting eroded and workers crave objective in the whole lot they do, so simply telling folks to do one thing received’t work anymore. The info governance of the longer term must be essentially practitioner-led.

I nearly consider this as an information group, reasonably than knowledge governance, the place practitioners really feel an obligation to create reusable property in order that they might help different group members.

From an afterthought to part of day by day workflows

Prior to now decade, knowledge governance was all the time utilized as an afterthought. Information practitioners would ship tasks as they have been, then return later and add knowledge governance necessities dictated by top-down mandates.

Within the new world, knowledge governance received’t be an afterthought. As a substitute, will probably be an ordinary that’s an integral a part of the “delivery workflows” for knowledge practitioners.

Let’s rebrand knowledge governance

The fashionable knowledge stack is a grasp in rebranding new classes. Prior to now 12 months alone, we’ve created Headless BI, Reverse ETL, Information Observability, and lots of extra areas. The motion that has fascinated me most is “analytics engineering”, which modified the concept of information cleansing and transformation and gave an entire group of individuals a better objective.

I’ve an ask of our group… Let’s lastly rebrand knowledge governance and provides it the rightful place and respect it deserves in our stacks. Let’s make it sound like what it’s meant to be — a set of practices that incredible knowledge groups will comply with.

I don’t fairly know what the brand new model and identify for contemporary knowledge governance needs to be, but it surely must align with the basic reorientation of governance as a bottom-up, community-led, practitioner motion.

Perhaps it needs to be referred to as Information Enablement, Group-Led Information Governance, or the Information-Product Mindset? Perhaps the Information Steward position needs to be subsumed within the Information Product Supervisor position? Perhaps Information Governance Managers needs to be rebranded as Information Group Managers or Information Enablement Managers and be a part of the broader knowledge platform groups?

There’s a lot chance, so I’d love to listen to from extra folks. What do you suppose?


This text was initially printed on In direction of Information Science.

Header picture: Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

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