Data Governance

How to Start with Data Governance

Graham Needham
March 14, 2023 | 10 min read
As a concept, data governance can be seen as a strategic program that defines the roles, rules, processes, and best practices an organization should follow to ensure the safety, quality, and proper use of data. Data governance provides a blueprint of controls to guarantee the effective management of data at the enterprise level. But what if you want to know more, are just starting with such an initiative, or your boss asks you to “fix the data”?

Where to start

When you are about to introduce something new, you will usually need solid support from some of the key stakeholders involved. Therefore first, you need to understand (and internally sell) what is driving the need for data governance in your organization. Some of the most common reasons are:

Data democratization

Data used to be the realm of IT, but it must be made available to all areas and people in a modern organization. So to do that, you need to be able to understand the data. And to achieve that, you need some kind of data governance.


Legal and regulatory directives such as BCBS 239, GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and the EU Data Governance Act mean some form of data governance is needed, regardless of the organization's size. Data governance is a requirement in some industries, such as finance, banking, and healthcare – there is no ignoring it.

Bad data quality

To utilize data and become data-driven or data-enabled means that you need to trust your data, which requires the data to be of good quality and usable. This is more than just an IT problem because it requires context from the business world. Good data governance can bring these two worlds together.

The mission to gain specific benefits for the business

Everything touches and requires data now, so a business often wants a specific outcome from using data, e.g., saving time and money, better reporting, monetizing assets, assisting with mergers and acquisitions, e-commerce, digitalization, etc. With data governance, these will be possible.

Understanding the driver(s) will give you the correct perspective to start your data governance journey.

Discussing data governance essentials

At Accurity, we believe in sharing knowledge, so we have started a new live event series and podcast called Accurity Data Vibes, where we discuss and dive deep into everything related to data governance.

The first episode, Data Governance: Where to Start When Your Boss Tells You to Fix the Data, was broadcast on March 9, 2023, and is available on demand via LinkedIn. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you can find it on the Accurity YouTube channel, and it's also available via your favorite Podcast directories.

The inaugural event focuses on our discussion in this blog post, so why not check it out?

Who is involved in, and the roles needed for data governance

You will usually find that many data governance tasks are already being performed, but they are being done in an uncoordinated, non-consistent, inefficient way. Data governance is clearly defining who does what and can help you coordinate these tasks, perform them consistently, and make them much more efficient.

For starters, you should definitely introduce these two primary roles:

Data owner

This is more on the data creation side. Usually, it's a department head or management level person responsible for the department or area that creates the data, and they can influence that data is being corrected.

Data steward

These hands-on people describe and check the data with more operational-based tasks. They are also very much on the data consumption side because if you do reporting and analytics, you will have different requirements for the data.

The organizational setup also depends on the maturity of your business. When starting, you probably need to define some basic roles, and in decentralized departments, you define the data owners who create the data. And you maybe have some data stewards here and there, and you will try to link it all through some committee structure or loose pairings.

However, as your business matures, you might end up having some data steward roles in a centralized team because you can gain some synergies if these people work together. And then you might consider a role like a Chief Data Officer (CDO) and, ultimately, if the business has developed enough, you would end up linking that to the board level with the remit that you have someone at the board level who is responsible for the topic of data management and data governance.

We outline and describe the many and varied roles that may be needed for a data governance framework in our Data Governance Essentials: Importance, Approach, and Roles whitepaper – it’s a free download from our website.

Getting everyone onboard

Suppose you are introducing new processes and thus new demands on the budget. In that case, this is usually something that will not be very popular if you don't immediately impact revenue at the same time. So how do you motivate and get the buy-in from the important stakeholders to support data governance within the organization?

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, but we know from experience that you should not underestimate this topic. Therefore, you must explain to your stakeholders what data governance is and what it's good for.

It’s always helpful to use analogies that the stakeholders can understand because people you talk to in business departments will usually not be data experts. If you tell them you need a business glossary or data catalog, they will look at you blankly and not understand what you're talking about. But if you tell them you need a travel guide that guides you through the data and shows you where to find which data, they may better understand this. Or, if you talk about data lineage, meaning tracing data through the data pipeline in your organization, you could use the analogy of milk production – from the cow, through the refinery, to the packaged milk on the shelves.

By highlighting the costs of poor data governance, showing the potential return on investment, and providing a clear and detailed plan, you can help your executives understand the importance of data governance and see the value of investing in a data governance initiative and relevant tools. We have more help and guidance in our How to Build a Business Case for Data Governance Tools blog post.

Start small and scale

Unless you are a bank that can invest in a massive project with thousands of man days because you're forced to do it by a regulator, you should start small and do it step by step. Figure out what you're doing with your data, what you're trying to do with your data, and what kind of data you have. And based on that, define your data governance approach.

Consider the two ways of building data governance and the benefits of both of them. And you should tailor your data governance solution to your business needs and scale when it is appropriate.

Get started for free

We offer a Starter plan of our Accurity Business Glossary and Data Catalog software solution free forever or a 14-day trial version of our Data Quality and Data Observability solution. With both of them you can get going quickly and easily with a simple signup, and sample data and guided tours are included. There are no quotes needed, pre-project assessments, or time-consuming environment setups.

Discover more and get involved

Come join us at our Accurity Data Vibes live events, where we regularly discuss and dive deeper into various data governance topics. Bookmark the Accurity Data Vibes page on our website to catch up with any of the shows on demand.

Graham Needham
Content Editor