Information Governance Has a Severe Branding Downside – Atlan
10 mins read

Information Governance Has a Severe Branding Downside – Atlan


The story of the place knowledge governance began and the way every part went improper

Of all of the duties that I’ve executed within the knowledge business, knowledge governance has truthfully 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 fact is, that’s typically 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 knowledge should 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 identification disaster, what it was truly envisioned as a long time in the past, and the way we will save the reputations of knowledge stewards in every single place.

The place did knowledge governance come from?

Information governance was constructed on actually cool rules. However when you seek for the historical past of knowledge 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, nicely, knowledge governance isn’t attractive. Few individuals can stifle their yawns lengthy sufficient to delve into its current, not to mention its previous. To make issues harder, knowledge governance got here out of knowledge 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 happened to attach the techie world of knowledge 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 endurance of a kindergarten trainer 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 individuals and course of. They deftly navigated corporations by the problems that come up with utilizing knowledge, and introduced readability and order to the intimidating new world of massive knowledge.

Information governance right this moment: management, not collaboration

Although knowledge governance grew out of this concept of collaboration, it’s not often been applied in that approach. Right now, it’s seen extra as a solution to impose management.

Information governance initiatives are often framed round safety and danger — we’ve got to manipulate our knowledge to lower our danger.

It’s no surprise that corporations worry knowledge dangers. As knowledge has grown, the foundations and expectations round it have skyrocketed. With fixed information about privateness breaches, individuals are changing into extra attentive to how their private knowledge is protected. In 2018, there was a “international looking on knowledge governance”, due to a number of large knowledge breaches that destroyed the credibility and inventory values of manufacturers like Equifax, Fb, Marriott, and Yahoo. In consequence, new knowledge compliance necessities (e.g. GDPR and CCPA) are popping up daily.

Right now, corporations need to lower the chance of exhibiting confidential knowledge to the improper particular person, unhealthy knowledge getting used to make large selections, and violating necessary laws. To forestall these missteps, knowledge is surrounded by complicated safety processes and restrictions, all dictated by a distant knowledge governance staff.

Extra knowledge governance, extra agility?

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

In actual fact, the extra individuals begin trusting knowledge governance, the extra they’ll truly be capable of obtain. Sounds iffy? Let’s begin with an instance.

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

The issue was, daily was chaos. We had collaboration overload, the place individuals spent extra time attempting to entry or perceive the information than truly utilizing it. Our Slack was full of messages like “Why is knowledge lacking for 721 geographies?” or “Why are these dashboards exhibiting completely different numbers?”

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

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

I feel that the extra that organizations begin believing in and investing in — moderately than dreading — true knowledge governance, the extra they’ll be capable of obtain. This implies implementing governance instruments and processes which might be agile and collaborative, moderately than a top-down governance staff someplace asserting, “Right here’s how it’s worthwhile to take into consideration definitions”.

The information governance renaissance within the trendy knowledge stack

In his weblog concerning the trendy knowledge stack, Tristan talked about knowledge governance lagging behind the remainder of the fashionable 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 knowledge groups and practitioners within the trendy knowledge stack. As knowledge groups turn into extra mainstream, and the fashionable knowledge stack has made it simpler to ingest and remodel knowledge, the dearth of knowledge governance practices is among the high boundaries stopping knowledge groups from being agile and driving affect.

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 as a consequence of regulation.

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

The paradigm shift that knowledge governance wants right this moment

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 strategy to a decentralized, community-led strategy

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

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

I nearly consider this as a knowledge group, moderately than knowledge governance, the place practitioners really feel an obligation to create reusable property in order that they can assist different group members.

From an afterthought to part of each day workflows

Previously decade, knowledge governance was at all times utilized as an afterthought. Information practitioners would ship initiatives 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, it will likely be a regular 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. Previously 12 months alone, we’ve created Headless BI, Reverse ETL, Information Observability, and plenty of extra areas. The motion that has fascinated me most is “analytics engineering”, which modified the concept of knowledge cleansing and transformation and gave a complete group of individuals the next 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 title 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.

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

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


This text was initially revealed on In the direction of Information Science.

Header picture: Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

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