Data Governance: Governing your Business Processes

By: Emily Walsh, Director


When thinking about building a data governance program, it’s important to remember that your organization’s data does not exist in a vacuum. People - and their business processes - act on, change, and manipulate data on a daily basis. Frequently, poor data quality is the result of inefficient or legacy business processes that may no longer serve your organization’s needs. Assessing and correcting your business processes can often lead to improved data quality.





When you’re developing a data governance program, you also have to tackle the business processes that interact with your data. Adopting a holistic view of data governance by paying attention to both the business processes as well as the data will give you an advantage in managing the overall “data landscape” in your organization.


So, where to begin?


Step 1: Document Existing Business Processes

First, if you haven’t already you should audit and document all of the business processes that interact with your organization’s data. At this point, you should focus on documenting those processes as they currently exist. In most organizations, this will require you to partner with several functional areas and a variety of different teams to ensure that all business processes that impact the data are considered and documented.


Step 2: Assess Roles & Efficiencies

Once you’ve documented your processes, it’s time to ask yourself if your organization is doing things in the most efficient or time-saving manner. Perhaps some efficiencies can be gained, or automation needs to be considered. Also, consider if you have the right people doing the work and if you have backups for every business process. It’s risky to have business processes that only one person knows and understands - it’s important to think about cross-training and ensuring that multiple people know how to complete the work, particularly regarding processes that create, manage, and maintain your data.


Step 3: Assess Cross-Functional Data/Process Impacts

Now that you’ve assessed the efficiency of your processes and the roles/assignments, it’s time to consider if (or more likely how) the business processes of one team might be impacting other functional areas. For example, inefficient gift processing can impact the delivery of quality and timeline stewardship. Or inefficient records maintenance (like slow processing of returned mail) may have negative impacts on the quality/deliverability of a future mailing piece. It’s important to take your time during this step to ensure that the business processes developed by one area are aligned with - and support - the business processes of other, impacted areas.


Step 4: Update Business Processes & Document New Processes

Once you’ve completed steps 2 and 3, you’ll want to circle back to step 1 and ensure that all your process documentation is updated. And if you identified some new processes that are needed, you’ll want to make sure that those processes are documented as well. Your process documentation should be stored and maintained in a location where people in your organization can access it.


Step 5: Regularly review and assess business processes and data impacts

Finally, as part of your data and business process governance strategy, you’ll want to create a calendar or timeline indicating when (and with what frequency) you will review and update documentation. As part of your data governance strategy, your governance committee should review these business processes on a regular basis and enhance them/adjust them as needed.


When implementing a robust data governance program, you will quickly discover that there are intersections between business processes and data across your organization. Developing a data governance program can help you clarify how data is used as well as the business implications of the processes surrounding the creation and maintenance of data. In high-performing organizations that value data and information as an asset, governance efforts must apply to both data and process. Including the business processes in your data governance efforts will help you create a more robust and holistic governance approach for your organization.