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Sep 03, 2014

Making data governance a bigger priority

Working harder to ensure data governance doesn't lag behind other data initiatives can help firms improve decision making and run their business more efficiently 

Data governance initiatives aren’t keeping pace with the efforts US companies are putting into other kinds of data projects, such as those centered around building analytical tools for data. At least, that’s a conclusion for the insurance industry, according to a recent report released by Celent, which surveyed 41 insurance carriers.
‘The importance of data governance: current practices’, published in July, finds that more than three quarters of carriers surveyed consider data to be ‘mission-critical’, while just 22 percent see data governance as ‘mission-critical’ and nearly 49 percent see it as ‘highly important’.
The report views governance mostly in terms of managing data to ensure it’s ‘consistent, reliable and usable for analysis’, to avoid losing its credibility. But respondents were also asked how important data privacy initiatives are to them and whether they are getting any value from them.

‘About 20 percent of them say they have these in place and are getting significant value; 25 percent say they have them in place and are getting some value from them,’ says Karlyn Carnahan, research director for Celent’s insurance practice and the report’s author. Another 23 percent of respondents say they aren’t sure of the value they’re getting from privacy initiatives, and 5 percent say they aren’t getting value from them. Ten percent say they haven’t yet implemented data privacy measures but plan to try, 5 percent say they are considering trying, and 13 percent say they have no plans for such measures.

To be sure, these results are limited to the insurance industry, but many points raised in the report are valid for all organizations. For instance, improving decision making is the primary reason carriers are implementing data governance initiatives. From a broader governance perspective than mere data management, it’s worth asking whether your company has processes in place to make optimal use of any data it collects.
Celent’s survey finds that 56 percent of respondents believe they are getting significant or some value from data quality initiatives, while 45 percent say having a data governance council is providing significant or some value.

Unsurprisingly, policy specialists in Washington have also been giving the matter of data privacy careful thought. Two reports – one by senior White House counselor John Podesta and a high-level policy team, and another by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) – are summarized in a recent PwC report, ‘Big data: big benefits and imperiled privacy’, and show different approaches to the issue. Podesta’s report recommends adopting advanced data-tagging methods to encode details about the context of data collection and uses that have been approved by the consumer. The PCAST report suggests privacy policy focus on the use of ‘big data’, rather than on what data is collected and how it’s gathered.    

‘The best policy is to rigorously study and understand the data privacy and legal regulations that govern the storage and use of personal information in all countries in which a business operates,’ says David Burg, PwC’s global and US advisory cyber-security leader, in an email. ‘Companies should then use this knowledge to continuously evaluate the type of information stored, where it is stored, and for how long it is stored. It’s also important to understand the rules that govern how information may be moved across national borders, whether within the EU or from the EU to other nations.’
One impediment to data governance for the insurance carriers is shared ownership of data. The Celent report finds the chief information officer is the sole owner only 3 percent of the time, and 67 percent of the time shares ownership, most often with the business leader or line of business owner, neither of whom always understand the nuances and details of managing data, says Carnahan. Who owns the data in your company?

David Bogoslaw

Associate Editor and Online features producer for Corporate Secretary