The stay-at-home orders that are in effect throughout the country have rapidly accelerated the decision to enable remote work environments for many organizations. And while there are several job functions that can successfully be performed remotely, it’s not always a seamless experience for the employees, which, in turn, can cost the company in both time and money. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way businesses operate, Mission Critical magazine explored the idea of constructing a centralized data catalog with Emily Washington, executive vice president of product management at Infogix. Here’s what she had to say about data governance strategies.

Mission Critical: Can you discuss the importance of communication between the business and IT departments in making critical business decisions?

When the business and the IT departments fail to communicate and collaborate on data management efforts, the company automatically defaults to IT resources to prepare and manage data for business users across the entire organization. When that happens, business users are left confused by the technical jargon IT uses, like SQL, Java, or Python, forcing them to try and translate technical vernacular into business terms.

How does communication suffer once physical proximity is removed between these departments?

Once physical proximity is removed, so are casual conversations between various employees. So much valuable information is discovered by simply talking and interacting with colleagues. With reduced human interactions, workers are forced to use only the data available to them, rather than discovering new information. As a result, the availability and awareness around usable data is greatly reduced.

As an example, an organization might unknowingly have three teams analyzing the same data sets that are housed in three separate physical data stores. The analyses might yield similar, but slightly different insights. This lack of collaboration with colleagues to identify the most accurate sources is a direct result of the remote workforce.

Do the same issues apply to enterprises that were already setup to enable remote working capabilities for certain employees/departments within their organizations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The reality is, the number of companies offering flexible workplace environments, allowing employees to work from home on occasion, was already on the rise. In fact, A report conducted by Global Workplace Analytics revealed that the amount of people working from home has increased by 173% since 2005.

While many data-driven businesses have already built centralized data hubs and taken preparations to enable employees to work remotely two or three times a week, there are still situations where business users can’t find the information they need. When that happens, business users will reach out to IT resources, who are also working remotely. IT is already busy maintaining networks and servers, so adding business user requests to their plate is likely to overwhelm them, zapping their overall productivity.

Can you define the concept of data governance?

Data governance is an enterprisewide program that formally aligns people, processes, and technologies to convert raw data into actionable business assets. Data governance brings clarity to the data supply chain, improves accountability for data assets, and enables companies to unlock new business intelligence that improves business outcomes, increases revenue, and sustains growth. 

How can a data governance framework that prioritizes data quality to build a comprehensive data catalog enable self-service data extraction, transformation, and analysis to ease the work-from-home conditions?

Leveraging data governance and incorporating data quality to construct a centralized data catalog makes massive amounts of data available to a company’s workforce from any location. To build a data catalog, companies must focus on the high-value data that drives company operations and insights. By including data quality metric baselines to provide transparency into data quality scores, the catalog informs users which data is best suited for their purposes. Ultimately, the catalog organizes and documents comprehensive details about an organization’s critical data assets in a simple, easy to digest format, empowering business users to utilize and trust their data from home.

Are there any additional security issues that could arise?

The data catalog should enable IT resources to manage access policies, communicate data access methods, and convey usage restriction rights, helping to mitigate the risks of unauthorized access to information resources.

Is this a program that enterprises can deploy now, while we are in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, or is this something to keep in mind for the future, or both? 

If a business doesn’t have a data catalog yet, they can still start now, even in the midst of a pandemic, by identifying data owners, users, and stewards of the most critical data. Data management technologies and tools can facilitate and foster remote collaboration on standardizing data definitions, thus simplifying communication and growing data governance adoption during remote work situations.

What do enterprises need to consider before taking the first step to adopting data governance?

One consideration enterprises must consider is selecting and incorporating self-service tools into their data governance efforts. Self-service tools can help expedite the creation of a data catalog, empowering business users to more effectively join forces with IT to increase a common understanding of where and how to use information.

How do you think COVID-19 is affecting how data-driven organizations view the idea of centralized data catalogs, and what do you expect to see in this space in both the short- and long-term future?

Some data-driven organizations have already cultivated a comprehensive data governance program and built a centralized data catalog. These organizations have the IT infrastructure to quickly transition to a remote work environment. However, many don’t have that infrastructure in place, and the COVID-19 virus is shining a light on that fact.

In the short-term, we expect organizations to start modernizing their data governance approach by prioritizing the understanding of data usage across the enterprise. This provides increased visibility into who has access to which information across systems and processes to ensure private data protection and security.

In the long term, we expect more businesses to take advantage of modern technologies to further enable remote collaboration. The adoption of data governance initiatives is just as much of a cultural shift as it is technology. COVID-19 has quickly forced many to adapt to remote collaboration, which will have long term benefits as we gain more comfort in sharing data across more locations. Now that external forces are causing a much-needed cultural change, organizations will be better equipped to leverage technology investments in data governance and quality solutions to support and expand ongoing efforts.