Business is measured in data. The data we use, how we use it, and how we adequately secure it across all business channels is a critical driver of success in the digital age. Indeed, as modern businesses deal with increased data flows, growing tech stacks, shrinking resources, and overwhelming amounts of touchpoints, data governance has become a pillar of best-practice data control.
But, what is data governance? And how can you enable it? Today, we’re going to unpack data governance, put its core features into buckets, and explain how businesses can utilize Office 365’s wide range of applications and features to enable their data governance capabilities.
What is Data Governance?
Data Governance is an information management concept that includes:
Many only understand data governance as “data management” or “data security” — both very real, related things. But, those terms don’t adequately capture the scope of data governance, and trying to view governance through the lens of management or security may impact your overall solution.
Data governance covers the entire lifecycle of your data, not just security or management. Adequate data governance requires a combination of strategies, processes, and technologies. Microsoft Office 365 isn’t the only data governance solution. But, it’s typically the most convenient data governance solution for many businesses — since most of you are already utilizing Office 365 at some level in your organization.
Let’s go over each of those core features and talk about how you can leverage Office 365 to create a better data ecosystem.
How Office 365 Helps Provide Data Governance
Does everyone in your business have access to data when and where they need it most?
That can be a tough question to answer. Most businesses deal with data siloing from their tech stack, data lakes with stale or unstructured data, and data in non-relational databases. These complexities can make data distribution a significant pain point, especially when you’re trying to move data throughout multiple layers of business (e.g., sales, marketing, legal, finance, etc.)
Here are two Microsoft Office 365 tools that can help with availability.
- SharePoint: Not only does SharePoint organize your business documents and intelligence to a single source, but you can also set access controls, monitor users, and set up sophisticated collaboration networks using that data. There’s a reason that SharePoint disrupted the enterprise content management space — it’s an incredibly dynamic solution. It has powerful exploration and search capabilities, can handle complex workflows, and, most importantly, can work between devices seamlessly.
- OneDrive: While many of us think of OneDrive as an individual storage solution baked into Office 365, it also has some powerful collaboration capabilities. Also, since most of your employees’ data is packed into OneDrive storage, you can run analytics and create best-practices targeted at a single solution — not a well of distantly related solutions.
For more information on SharePoint and data governance and availability, see:
For more information on how secure your OneDrive and SharePoint data is, see:
Ensuring that your data is available is certainly the first step, but you need to make sure that it’s useable as well. Data usability can be condensed into 5 categories.
- Accuracy: For data to be usable it has to be accurate. Things like stale data, incomplete data, and simple errors can degrade data access.
- Connectivity: Data needs to flow between sources. If two sources of data cannot accurately connect and identify one another, usability is going to be impacted on both of these sources.
- Standardization: You should develop a common data language and format.
- Metadata: Since metadata is data’s data, it’s an incredibly important tool. It gives data purpose and structure.
- Population: If you have incredible accuracy, great connectivity, full standardization, and rich metadata, you can still have unusable data simply because it cannot populate. You need to make sure that data populates when it’s needed most.
Here are three Microsoft Office 365 tools that can help with usability.
- PowerBI: What’s more usable than visual data? PowerBI transforms your data (both on-premise and in-cloud) into visual assets that you can leverage across your business. This can be valuable for analytics as well as baseline usability.
- SharePoint: Again, SharePoint offers some incredible metadata capabilities — which increases usability. It’s important to note that SharePoint is valuable across data governance as a whole. We heavily recommend that any business looking to breed data governance into its practices utilize SharePoint at some level.
- OneNote: Unstructured data can be difficult to supply when necessary. OneNote helps organize written, unstructured data. So, if a sales team member needs access to notes taken about a client, they can easily pull these up and share them across teams.
For more information on data usability and PowerBI, see: Governance and deployment approaches (Microsoft)
So far, data governance can be defined as available and useable data. But, what about consistent data? Usability is one thing, but data that is accurate and timely across systems is an entirely different matter.
Is everyone in your business working with the same data? This is a huge issue in modern business environments. Let’s say that your sales team uses Salesforce, your marketing team uses HubSpot, and your C-level uses Office 365. If all three of those groups pull up data on a customer, is it going to be the same data?
Or, even if everyone is operating in the same environment, are all of their documents up-to-date? If employees are creating local copies of documents and then missing system document updates, they’re working off of different information.
Both of these issues are consistency issues. Here are two Microsoft Office 365 tools that can help with consistency.
- PowerBI: When you take PowerBI’s data analyzing and visualizing capabilities and join them with SQL SBI for on-premise data and Azure Analysis Services for cloud data, you’ve got a powerful consistency potion. Data will flow between all of these seamlessly. And, data will be kept up-to-date, organized, and adequately distributed when needed. Not to mention the incredible analytic layer contained within these services.
- Azure Data Factory: ETL/ELT processes can be complex and painful to set up. Azure Data Factory can do it in seconds. This means that all of your data, across all of your data sources, can be instantly integrated and distributed. This is data consistency 2.0. Azure Data Factory scales incredibly well and has tons of security features baked in.
For more information on Azure Data Factory and data consistency, see:
The integrity of your data refers to its ability to be accurate and maintained via policies and stewardship over its entire lifecycle.
In other words, data integrity is how well you manage data (which involves understanding what data has an immediate business impact) and use that data according to policies and compliance procedures that you put-in-place.
The keywords in this bucket of data governance are going to be compliance, regulation, and policy. You need to erect policies that handle data so that you can maintain compliance and regulation.
Unlike our previous categories, we’re not going to recommend any granular Microsoft tools. Instead, let’s talk about how Microsoft Office 365, as a whole, promotes data integrity.
Microsoft has written in length about their data governance capabilities. But, let’s go over a few of the highlights.
- Microsoft has incredibly dynamic role-based access capabilities. This means that data is well maintained within your business’s hierarchy.
- Office 365 production environments also have peer replication, which means that your data has multiple live copies. This ensures that corruption and degradation don’t impact your data flow.
- Office 365 protects data from failures, corruption, and even accidental deletion via GUI.
To learn more about all of Microsoft’s data integrity capabilities, see:
- Driving effective data governance for improved quality and analytics (Microsoft)
- Data Resiliency in Office 365 (Microsoft)
- Dealing with Data Corruption in Office 365 (Microsoft)
Finally, data governance is hinged to security. Only those with access should be seeing your business data.
This is probably the section of data governance most are familiar with. Unfortunately, many businesses think that data security is the only piece of the data governance puzzle. It’s certainly important, but so are all of these other buckets that impact data throughout its lifecycle.
Besides Microsoft’s incredible built-in data security offerings, they also offer a few services that help give you visibility into your data security.
Here are two Microsoft Office 365 tools that can help with data security.
- Cloud App Security: Not only does Cloud App Security help you maintain a secure Office 365 environment, but it can also handle all of the files across your cloud architecture (even non-Microsoft). You can set up policies and labels, see security alerts, and view activity logs. It gives you clear visibility into your cloud security AND visibility on any incidents.
- Azure Information Protection: Unlike Cloud App Security, Azure Information Protection can handle both cloud environments and your on-premise infrastructure. This makes it an incredible all-around security tool that you can immediately adopt, scale, and implement organization-wide. Again, you can set labels, permissions, and more.
For more information on Cloud App Security and data security, see: Microsoft Cloud App Security (Microsoft). For more information on Azure Information Protection and data security, see: Azure Information Protection (Microsoft).
As business data becomes the fuel that enables you to win more customers, create more revenue, and unlock more business opportunities, implementing an effective data governance ecosystem is a key part of ensuring that your data is useful.
Data governance is the tools, processes, technologies, and strategies that you use to deliver consistent, usable, and secure data that’s readily available and has high integrity.
Microsoft Office 365 can help drive those core tenants of data governance. But, it can’t do it alone.
Agile IT provides collaboration, security, and compliance solutions to enable data governance in organizations that need it most. Are you interested in unlocking your full data potential? Contact us or request a quote: