What is a data governance policy?

A data governance policy is a set of rules, procedures and guidelines that define how an organization collects, stores and uses data. Learn more here.
Last updated
September 14, 2023
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Organizations that collect, store and use data need to have data governance policies in place. Data processes are resource-intensive, and the insights gleaned are valuable, so it makes sense you would want to protect this data and maintain its integrity. But what is a data governance policy and why does it matter?

Data governance policies are a set of rules and guidelines that help ensure data accuracy, security and privacy while also helping businesses adhere to relevant compliance laws and regulations. Neglecting data governance leaves you open to liability issues and fines. It can also reduce the quality of your data. In this blog, we’ll be talking about why you need data governance policies and how you can create one of your own.

Why is it important?

A data governance policy is essential for any business that handles data. As mentioned, a data governance policy is a set of rules, procedures and guidelines that define how an organization collects, stores, uses and handles data. With these policies in place, data can be used effectively, efficiently, ethically and in compliance with regulatory guidelines. 

One of the most important roles of a data governance policy is to ensure that an organization is protecting the privacy of its customers and that no industry or government regulations are being neglected. A policy will provide clear guidance on how to handle customer data and keep it secure. It will also help outline how data should be handled and who has access to it. A well-defined data policy also outlines exactly how data should be collected and disposed of when necessary. 

Data governance policies are also important because these increase transparency and trust with customers, suppliers, partners and other stakeholders. When stakeholders know that their data is secure and there are protocols in place to handle their data, they’ll feel more comfortable having it in an organization’s system. 

Finally, data governance policies are essential for businesses to stay competitive. As technology advances and data-driven decisions become increasingly common, most businesses already have comprehensive data governance policies in place. A robust data governance policy will help businesses put the right processes in place to keep data accurate and secure, allowing them to remain competitive in the market.

What are the benefits?

  • Increase compliance and security — Data governance policies outline the processes organizations need to take to remain compliant with federal, industry and local rules and regulations. This helps organizations avoid regulatory fines and penalties while also keeping business and customer data secure.
  • Clear processes — A clear and concise data governance policy will outline the processes for collecting, accessing and using data. It also outlines who can access data. This ensures there’s no confusion about data-related processes, so all team members are on the same page.
  • Improved data quality — Data governance also helps to ensure that information is kept up-to-date, accurate and complete. This helps businesses maintain data integrity, which also means team members can trust that data is reliable.
  • Improve efficiency and cut costs — Having a data governance policy can help increase organizational efficiency and reduce costs. These policies will help to optimize processes and standardize data, leading to fewer errors and issues.
  • Increased customer trust and loyalty — Having a data governance policy can help improve customer trust and loyalty, as customers will feel confident that the security of their information is prioritized.
  • Improved data-driven decisions — With a comprehensive data governance policy, data will be used more effectively. The policy will also help ensure that the right people have access to data when they need it, helping streamline data-driven decisions.
  • Improved collaboration — When the right people have access and data-sharing policies are outlined, collaboration in the organization can improve as well.

As you can see, there are numerous benefits to putting together a well-defined data governance policy. Next, let’s take a look at the steps for writing a data governance policy document.

How to write a data governance policy document

Creating a data governance policy document is important in establishing and maintaining effective data governance practices. A well-crafted data governance policy document should clearly articulate the purpose and objectives of your organization’s data governance efforts and the expected behaviors and responsibilities of all stakeholders. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when writing a data governance policy document:

  1. Determine Your Goals & Objectives: Your data governance policy document should define your data governance program's overall purpose and goals. Why does the policy exist and what purpose does it serve? This will help set the tone for your policy and establish why it’s needed.
  2. Establish Data Ownership & Access Rights: The policy document should also outline who owns the data and each user's access rights. This should include things like who can access certain data sets, how to request access and how access can be revoked. These procedures should be clearly established so there’s no room for misunderstandings.
  3. Create & Maintain Data Standards: Establishing data standards is essential to ensure data is properly managed, stored and secured. This may include data quality, data classification, data security, data retention and more.
  4. Define Data Quality & Integrity Checks: Outline processes for verifying data quality and accuracy. This may include checks to ensure completeness, accuracy, consistency and timeliness. Make sure to outline procedures for resolving issues and troubleshooting.
  5. Outline Compliance Requirements: Identify any applicable compliance requirements such as GDPR, HIPAA or any other industry-relevant compliance regulations. Explain how you will implement compliance and keep up with changing regulations.
  6. Specify Procedures for Data Retention & Disposal: Explain how long data should be retained and when/how it should be disposed of. Make sure you’re complying with any relevant compliance requirements for disposal.
  7. Designate Roles & Responsibilities: Assign roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder so everyone knows their part in the data governance process.
  8. Establish Regular Reviews & Audits: Ensure that all users are adhering to the policies by setting up regular reviews and audits. Outline timelines for regular reviews and audits.

It’s well worth taking the time to put together a comprehensive data governance policy, as it can protect your business in the long run while also improving your data processes.

What to include

If you’re wondering what to include in your data governance policy, these are some sections to get you started.

  • Data Governance Team and Responsibilities — Make sure you identify who is in charge of implementing and maintaining the data governance policy. Outline their responsibilities as well. 
  • Data Ownership and Access Control — As mentioned, you should establish data ownership in your policy. Outline who owns data and who is authorized to access it. Outline the policies for granting and revoking access.
  • Data Retention and Archiving — Establish a data retention and archiving policy that sets out how long data must be retained and when it needs to be archived.
  • Data Security — Describe the security measures that need to be taken to protect sensitive data, including encryption, authentication, firewalls and other measures. Outline any security details that relate to compliance regulations.
  • Data Quality — Outline the standards that need to be maintained for data accuracy and completeness and how data quality should be monitored and evaluated.
  • Data Policies — Document any specific policies that are related to the data being governed, such as GDPR compliance requirements or industry-specific guidelines.
  • Auditing & Reporting — Specify the processes for conducting regular audits of the data governance program and the types of reporting that should be used to evaluate performance. 
  • Training & Education — Set out the training requirements for staff concerning data governance, as well as any education initiatives that need to be implemented to ensure employees understand their responsibilities.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to include. You may need to add sections of your own depending on the needs of your business.

Popular data governance and compliance tools

Data governance and compliance tools are invaluable for helping organizations protect their data, comply with regulatory standards and improve the integrity of their data. These tools range from enterprise-wide solutions to more specialized ones focusing on specific data governance and compliance areas. Here are some of the most popular data governance and compliance tools available today. Get a detailed comparison of these tools here

  • Talend — Talend is an enterprise-grade solution that provides end-to-end data governance capabilities. It helps organizations set up data policies, monitor usage and track data lineage across multiple systems.
  • Collibra — Collibra is an enterprise-level platform that helps organizations ensure their data complies with industry standards. It allows users to control access, visualize their data lineage and automate data tasks.
  • Atlan — Atlan is a web and cloud-based platform that offers multiple data governance tools. Atlan offers tools for data lineage, column-level access control, cloud integrations and more.
  • Informatica — Informatica provides a powerful suite of tools that help organizations ensure the quality of their data and meet compliance requirements. 
  • Secoda — Secoda is a comprehensive all-in-one platform for data governance, data lineage, data cataloging, data discovery and much more.

These popular data governance and compliance tools provide powerful solutions for organizations looking to protect their data and meet regulatory requirements. They can help you automate many of the processes relevant to data governance, making things easier for your business and your data team. Ultimately, the right data governance tool will be determined by the needs of your business.

Try Secoda for free

Secoda allows you to manage data access and governance for all of your tools. With Secoda, you can easily control how your organization manages data access internally and externally across all of your tools. Secoda also creates documentation automatically, helping automate compliance and remove manual work for your data governance team.

Other data governance features included in Secoda are column profiling, dictionary terms, data documentation, automated PII tagging, automated compliance and automated permission.

However, Secoda offers more than just data governance tools. Secoda combines a data dictionary, data catalog, data requests, data management, data docs search and more in one intuitive platform built with data teams in mind. Ready to learn more?

Find out how Secoda can help your business and get started for free today.

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