Data governance: a major tool for your CSR approach

With the growing problem of "infobesity", companies are required to manage ever larger amounts of data, gathered both by teams internally and from clients and end users.

While data has become an undeniable asset for businesses, it can also be a costly headache when it is not managed in a structured way. The huge amount of human energy needed to navigate this mountain of disparate information can rapidly become counter-productive, while the vast amount of storage space required has an environmental impact, with the electricity consumed by data centres and water used to cool infrastructure.

Data governance is becoming a necessity in order to meet these challenges and build a more responsible relationship with digital technology. When deployed step by step and in total coherence with all business teams, it can become an essential tool for companies looking to adopt a robust and lasting CSR approach.

Governance in several stages to establish a more virtuous relationship with digital technology

While data governance undeniably involves a significant cost, it brings with it many benefits, financially, environmentally and internally, which can help you unite your teams around a more virtuous culture. The cost of data centre storage can rapidly add up for a company, and each byte of data stored consumes electricity (power supply) and water (cooling of rooms, severs, etc.).

One of the first things to be done is to map out and sort data in your possession, in order to keep only what is relevant and actually usable, all governed by a standardised reference system that clearly shows the lifecycle of all data. Reducing the amount of data used in this way, and keeping only what is necessary for processing, will reduce your storage requirements, producing immediate financial and environmental benefits. Holding less, but more relevant data will rationalise storage and the environmental cost.  

There are also internal benefits to be had. If your teams find themselves wading through reams of heterogeneous, unclassified and unlabelled data, wasting time and energy, setting up governance can help you create a reliable and harmonised source of data for all. Clearer and more structured management of data, their lifecycle and their purpose for the company will allow your employees to work more efficiently and save energy for more strategic tasks.

Such governance will enable you to create a clearer and more virtuous relationship with digital, based on two pillars: rationalisation of your environmental footprint and creation of a structured work environment to save your teams' energy. 

Avoid rushing into things: go for gradual, carefully considered deployment

Once you have decided that you want to establish an effective data governance system, there are several pitfalls to avoid, the first of which is rushing things. The temptation to establish a global governance system covering all data and business units can be great. However, such an undertaking can rapidly create costs for the company, without guaranteeing results, due to the creation of a tunnel effect that prevents efficient prioritisation of the work to done. While the establishment of a data governance system is globally beneficial for companies, it is important to avoid undermining the project's legitimacy and see it start to sink after just a few months, due to a lack of time and resources.  

By breaking work up into chunks and limiting the scope of data covered, you can get momentum going with some quick wins. Defining initial scopes of action should be done relatively early on and in coordination with the rest of the business teams involved in deploying the governance system. It is essential to be aware of your own resources, both human and financial, before throwing all of your energy into a project.   Data governance should be deployed with a clear goal of bringing about optimisation. It is essential to design it as a sustainable and lasting approach, and not only to "green" your company's image. While it may be a welcome contribution to the image your company projects to its employees and clients, it should not serve this purpose alone, at the risk of being labelled as "greenwashing".  

It should be orchestrated by a person who can guarantee that the project will follow a CSR approach: the Chief Data Officer. This person will be able to set the pace of deployment, help you prioritise work to be done and defend the project in front of the company's decision-making bodies. They will also be able to guarantee that the strategy is shared with all employees, who are the key players in the process, in order to develop a corporate culture and unite teams around the approach adopted.  

This is an absorbing and potentially costly undertaking. However, if it is carried out in a gradual and considered way, it can create many benefits that go well beyond your image as a responsible company.