We’ve recently published our latest Benchmark Research on Data Governance and it’s fair to say, “you’ve come a long way, baby.” Many of you reading this weren’t around when that phrase was introduced in 1968 to promote Virginia Slims cigarettes, but you may have heard the phrase because it went on to become a part of popular culture. We’ve learned a lot about cigarettes since then, and we’ve learned a lot about data governance, too.
Our research from 10 years ago shows the state of data governance at the time. Organizations struggled to unify their data in a consistent way that also enabled individuals to make use of the data. Approaches involved a patchwork of systems, often using spreadsheets. The top barrier to a single version of the truth was incompatible tools (59% of participants). The use of spreadsheets was a data governance concern for most (73%). This approach to data governance created a house of cards that was inflexible and unreliable due to the many manual processes involved. At the time, only 38% of participants had implemented data governance policies, but most others planned to implement them in the future.
Well, the future is here, and those numbers have changed dramatically. Nearly three-quarters of organizations (71%) have implemented data governance policies. And the results are impressive. Ten years ago, only 9% were very confident, and 36% confident, in their ability to govern and manage data. Today, those numbers are 30% and 34%, respectively. Similar proportions have trust in their data today, up about 10 percentage points from our prior research. In addition to trust in data and confidence in ability to govern data, improved data quality is a key benefit of today’s data governance efforts. More than three-quarters of organizations (77%) reported improved data quality for decision-making as a benefit of investing in data governance. Another key benefit of data governance contributing to improved decision-making is more accurate reporting and business intelligence (BI), cited by almost two-thirds of organizations (64%).
Another observation from the research is that investments in data governance are highly correlated with some of the positive results. Organizations that have had data governance policies in place for more than a year report greater levels of confidence in their ability to govern data and greater levels of trust in the data. We also see a correlation between more frequent use of data governance technologies and confidence in their ability to govern data. Almost two-thirds of organizations (63%) using data-quality tools hourly are very confident about their ability to govern and manage data across the business, compared to 29% of those using data-quality tools weekly. Meanwhile, more than one-half (54%) of those using technologies for auditing data access and usage hourly are very confident about their ability to govern and manage data across the business, compared to 22% of those using these technologies weekly.
But it’s not all a bed of roses. The barriers reported ten years ago remain. More than one-half of organizations (54%) reported that incompatible tools are a barrier to achieving a single version of the truth, making it the second most common barrier cited. And, unfortunately, spreadsheets continue to be an important technology for data governance, used by more than nine in 10 organizations (92%). Indeed, spreadsheets are the most popular tool for data governance, ahead of database tools and BI tools. Our research also indicates that organizations are using spreadsheets for data governance on a regular basis. More than one-third of organizations (38%) are using spreadsheets for data governance daily and more than one-quarter (28%) utilize them multiple times a day. The ongoing use of spreadsheets for data governance raises concerns, with more than two-thirds of participants (70%) reporting the use of spreadsheets is a data governance issue in their organization.
In addition, data governance technology shortcomings remain. More than two-fifths of organizations (42%) indicated they had inadequate reporting or dashboard capabilities in their existing data governance technologies. This is reflective of the evolution of the market. While data governance products and services have previously been targeted at data governance specialists, reporting and dashboard capabilities help serve the needs of business users and decision-makers, who are increasingly being involved in data governance processes.
Take a look at the research and consider what it might mean for your organization and its data governance efforts. If you are like the majority, you are well down the path toward good governance. Continue those efforts with more frequent use of data governance technologies and less dependence on spreadsheets. Broaden the appeal and deployment of those technologies to include more of the organization. And as I’ve indicated previously, your good governance efforts can lead to improved business processes.