Why Data Governance Policies are Critical in the Public Sector

Today’s public sector organizations operate in an increasingly complex environment. These organizations are responsible for expanding their services, but are forced to do so within financial constraints. With scrutiny on public spending growing, there is also an increasing focus on effective and transparent policy-making.

Data is becoming a critical component of public sector management. Public sector organizations operate in one of the most data-rich industries, yet having this central repository is somewhat new to them. For this reason, most groups still lag behind the private sector when it comes to effective data usage. We’ve found that challenges are not necessarily focused on software or infrastructure alone. In many case, it’s a matter of establishing robust data governance policies.

Defining Data Governance Policies

At its most basic level, data governance refers to the process an organization follows to ensure the production of high-quality, impactful data. This can include both external and internal data.

At a more granular level, data governance defines who has authority to make data management decisions, as well as who is accountable. This is critical for several reasons. Data governance policies ensure data is up-to-date, secure, consistent and standardized.  After all, if data cannot be trusted, it cannot be used. Data governance policies also define the flow of data throughout an organization and the models that create repeatable and scalable management processes. In short, data governance is the framework that connects information across an organization.

Data Governance in the Public Sector

Public sector organizations are in a unique position to improve their data governance. Traditional operating models in government are rife with overlapping datasets, information silos and limited data quality standards. These inefficiencies can drag down productivity over time, and impact the quality of service delivery. Data governance can remedy these issues in the following ways:

  • Standardizing data terminology and data objectives
  • Improving and enforcing data quality, collection and security
  • Creating a collaborative data platform across overlapping teams
  • Managing the information platform and technology that supports analytics and reporting

This enhancement of data can help at many levels, be it improvements in service delivery or the management of strategic capital plans.

A Closer Look: Data Governance in Education

In regards to data provision and use, universities and colleges are among the most complex organizations in the public sector. Along with handling student enrolment, research funding and academic integrity, these institutions must also manage numerous day-to-day business requirements. These include technology investments, facility maintenance and accounting procedures across multiple departments.

For best practices, we can look to institutions such as the University of Michigan and New York University (even though it’s private). Both have developed strict data governance frameworks to keep up with the sheer volume of data being produced. These frameworks relate to setting clear data objectives, as well as internal staffing and leadership. For example, the University of Michigan defines the roles and responsibilities of data stewards and managers—roles that we have seen become more prominent throughout the public sector. NYU’s Data Governance Charter outlines a specific mission statement and scope to align all stakeholders with focused objectives for the initiative. As individuals become more savvy about their rights to their personal data (as seen in the EU’s upcoming GDPR enforcement, for example), it becomes ever more pertinent for organizations to know what they’re collecting, for what purpose and where it’s stored.

Moreover, data governance is a critical step in ensuring organizations align their information with their larger business objectives. It forms the critical foundation of evidence-based decision making on behalf of your organization. If you are in the public sector and you are looking to enhance your data governance, please contact 4tell Solutions™ for more information.

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