Data is valuable. As the challenge of protecting customer data mounts, more and more businesses are embracing data-governance strategies to manage the information that serves as the lifeblood of the company. Without a doubt, data has become the raw material of the information economy, and data governance is a strategic imperative.
Speaking to theCUBE at MITCDOIQ 2014 yesterday, Tina Rosario, Vice President of Global Operations at SAP America, said that data governance is becoming increasingly important as data becomes more distributed. “It’s not just data on premise, or on a laptop,” she said. “Nowadays, it’s data on an iPad, or data on some other device. It’s much more distributed and because of that it requires much more governance.”
What is data governance anyway?
Wikibon analyst Jeff Kelly asked Rosario how she would define data governance, and was told that it can be broken down into four key capabilities – Good organization; Processes; Maintenance; and technical solutions.
“The first capability is good organization regarding practices around data governance – rules, standards, policies,” said Rosario. “Second, we look at the right processes for simplifying, creating, updating and maintaining data. We also look at data from an ongoing maintenance point of view, such as the right operations and tools to automate maintenance of data because we know it decays.”
You could be forgiven for thinking it sounds like data governance at SAP is a pretty laborious task, and probably very confusing for non-data people. But that’s not the case, because Rosario’s team tends to avoid using too much data speak. “We try to break it down and say, what is required by the business, what are the most critical bits of information that you need to run your business processes?” she explains. “Lets focus on those fields and lets focus on that critical set of information, and that’s what we’re going to govern.”
Rosario believes it’s important to consider data governance from the perspective of those who use it. She says that no one ever thinks about the data being bad, but people will notice if the information they need isn’t accessible, or if they find they can’t trust it. “We try and think of it from those points of view, and ask what can we do to enable those business processes to run more efficiently?” she said. “How can we get the data to them faster and with the right level of content?”
The other side of the coin is that it’s important for data governance teams to enjoy a good working relationship with those who’re analyzing the data to drive business goals. As she explains to Jeff Kelly, it’s the data governance team’s job to ensure that the company’s data is at the right level of quality and standards, so that it’s accessible to the analytics people and that they don’t have to waste time rationalizing whatever they want to do.
“We get requirements from them,” said Rosario. “They might come and say “we’re about to run this report, we need this level of data, can you help make sure we get it from the right source, that it’s from the right level of quality, and that it’s available to us? It’s a very symbiotic relationship between us.”
It’s a relationship that works both ways too, because part of the data governance team’s job is to analyze the level of data quality, and to do so they need the analytics guy’s expertise. “We have a good partnership there, they provide us with access to the tools and analytical capabilities we need,” she said.
Complexity in the cloud
Rosario makes data governance sound easy, but at SAP they do face some difficulties. Asked by Dave Vellante what her team’s main priorities were, she said the biggest challenge was governing data that resides in the cloud.
“SAP’s vision is to become the cloud company, and with that vision comes cloud capabilities internally, and so how do we data govern in the cloud?” she asked.
One of the main difficulties is the distributed nature of SAP’s data. The company sits in a hybrid environment, with some data on-premise, some in the cloud, with more and more being moved to the cloud. It’s a challenge for her team to work out how to govern data in this situation.
“It’s becoming much more distributed, and some might say that’s much more complex but I see it as an opportunity for us to have more governance and to spread that across all of these various channels,” said Rosario.
Watch the rest of Rosario’s interview on theCUBE at MITCDOIQ 2014 below.
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