Data Democratization: Balancing Risk vs Reward Through Data Governance

August 11, 2020
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3 min read

Expanding employees’ access to the company’s data, known as data democratization, can be controversial. A more open attitude to data within the enterprise can give people the tools to fuel innovation and improve their bottom lines. However, it also can pose problems with security if not properly rolled out. As businesses work towards unleashing the power of big data, the way that data is collected, organized and analyzed has become a raging debate across all stakeholder groups — consumers, digital enterprises, regulators and government agencies. 

Just as data governance and data security are essential to data privacy, if done right, they can set a solid foundation for data democratization. This will safely expand access of an organization’s data from a few analysts to employees throughout a company for faster decision making and business agility. Universal access to data is the key to unlocking the value embedded within the organization.

Data Infrastructure 

Think of the enterprise as a country. A country’s level of infrastructure is a critical factor in the health and wealth of its economy. This infrastructure enables private businesses and individuals to produce, transfer and exchange goods and services.

Similarly, data privacy is a critical factor in the health and wealth of a digital economy. It enables digital businesses to bring services to bear easily and efficiently. It contributes to building trust between enterprises and consumers, providing transparency and employing means that are fair and governed. 

Regulations are increasing around the globe and consumers more aware than ever of the potential harms that could arise from the improper handling of their private information. Because of this, maintaining proper data privacy is an existential requirement for a digital business. There can be no data privacy without data governance. Moreover, there can be no data governance without data security. These are all stepping stones, not roadblocks, on a path to responsible data democratization. 

Data Governance and Data Security 

Where data governance focuses on the processes and policies around data quality and data access — what types of users or applications can access what data, for example — data security ensures that that access is done securely. Properly executed, data governance and data security together can lay the foundation for a digital enterprise to enable data democratization.

Executives and users struggle to break down the silos that exist between the data governance and data security disciplines. The result is the persistence of data islands: disparate tools and technologies, multiple and conflicting data management mandates, a never-ending scramble to catch up on compliance and a lack of communication and collaboration between the teams. When data islands appear, it is a sign that the organization is failing to capture the benefits of hooking data governance, data security teams and tooling together.

When integrated, they can help the enterprise in several ways. They make it easier to achieve conformance with various overlapping and evolving privacy mandates and regulations. Teams can minimize the operational risks caused by compromise or lost data. The data management program can optimize operational efficiency and effectiveness by keeping to common business goals. 

5 Essential Steps Toward Data Democratization 

Making the transformation to data democratization is no simple task. Companies looking to unlock the potential of their data should focus on employing these five essential practices to make it a reality:

  1. Outline a cohesive strategy for automating and governing the data lifecycle in a controlled and secure manner.
  2. Break down information silos between teams responsible for data management, security and governance.
  3. Establish enterprise-wide rules and policies to catalog, assess and enforce data quality, data governance and data security.
  4. Improve collaboration between the data stewards, data governance and data security teams.
  5. Implement proactive controls to protect, detect and respond to threats in real-time.

In these ways, data democratization can be just another tool in the toolkit to make enterprise more efficient. It can improve trust and transparency, keep compliance and privacy front of mind and unlock innovative ways for digital enterprises to create new opportunities and achieve business growth.

Benazeer Daruwalla
Executive Cybersecurity Advisor, IBM

Benazeer Daruwalla has 19 years of experience in technology and has served the last five years at IBM as a Senior Cybersecurity Architect in Financial Servic...
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