A year ago, a ClusterSeven panel discussion entitled Data Governance in the Financial Services Sector, highlighted a lack of definition, common understanding and therefore ownership of ‘data governance’ – even among those who were closely involved.  The session was attended by Nick Alford (Xcina), Mark Wilson (Handelsbanken), Nicola Askham (Aspen-Re) and Timor Ahmad (Lloyd’s). Many companies didn’t realise the strategic value of data and so didn’t recognize the impact of improved data quality and governance on competitive advantage.

Here are some highlights from the discussion, which are worth noting and still relevant today:

 

Definition of data governance

The general consensus was that data governance combines people, processes and technology, with the objective of keeping the organization safe from strategic, financial and reputational risks or with the objective of ensuring data quality. There was also agreement that data quality and data governance are closely linked.

When it comes to the objectives of data governance, the goal varies from organization to organization. The objective can be anything from protecting customer data from theft, meeting regulatory requirements, and maximising the value of data. From a regulatory compliance standpoint, while understandable, it is unfortunate that most organizations view data governance as a project, when really it should be a core part of their ‘business as usual’ activities. Today, the GDPR  is forcing them to change their attitude.

 

Ownership of data governance and organizational culture

The vague definition of data governance was resulting in a lack of ownership of the function as it sits in different departments in different organizations including finance, IT and risk. This needs to change. While many organizations still view data governance as an activity that must be undertaken to satisfy the regulators, we are nonetheless seeing a cultural change happening, driven by the Board level, which in turn is influenced by regulatory demands – most prominently, GDPR. Senior executives are recognizing the value of data governance, which is gradually percolating down to the rest of the organization. This is helping staff to recognize how their activities impact on data governance and quality, but there is still of lot of education needed.  A more in-depth understanding will encourage enterprise stakeholders to take ownership of these activities and embed them in their day-to-day activities, further facilitating enduring cultural change.

One of the major issues that is inhibiting improvement in data quality and governance is the data and cultural silos that currently exist in organizations. Also, communication between departments about the data they share with each other is lacking. Especially with the ubiquitous use of spreadsheets in organizations for data modelling, financial calculations and manipulations, many organizations don’t have best practice-led processes in place for data management and control. This is materially impacting on their governance initiatives.

Consequently, organizations are looking to invest in people, processes and technology to address data governance; and are actively looking for tools that can assist them with this initiative. Spreadsheet control and management is key to such initiatives.

ClusterSeven solutions facilitate end-to-end, best practice-led spreadsheet management. They are designed to not only identify risks in spreadsheets and end user computing applications; they constantly monitor those spreadsheets for change management to help organizations effectively comply with internal and external spreadsheet usage and end user computing policies, which is key component of the larger data governance initiative.

If you are considering the adoption of such tools or would like to simply know more about them, please get in touch with us. We’d be happy to demonstrate the benefits of a strategic approach to spreadsheet management as part of your GDPR and broader data governance initiative.

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