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The Role of Data Governance in Maintaining Data Quality

October 23, 2023
min read

Ever wonder how the information you rely on stays accurate and reliable? Well, you're in the right place because we're diving into the fascinating world of data governance and its crucial role in keeping our data top-notch.

Think about your favorite online store. When you browse for that perfect pair of shoes, you trust that the product details and prices are spot on. Or when you check your bank balance online, you want to be sure it's showing the real deal, not some random number.

That's where data governance comes into play. It's like the guardian of your data's quality. Just like you'd want a trusted friend to vouch for that new restaurant, data governance makes sure your data is reliable, accurate, and ready to serve you well.

Here is a quote by Chris Savage, CEO of Wistia “You can’t run a business today without data. But you also can’t let the numbers drive the car”.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at how data governance works, why it matters, and some key players in data governance, what are some of the data governance best practices and its role in data quality. So, buckle up and get ready to discover how data governance keeps your digital world in tip-top shape.

Data governance is a collection of policies, metrics, roles, and standards that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.

Data Governance Framework
Fig: Data Governance Framework

Data governance is like the rulebook for how we handle information. It's all about making sure our data is reliable and used in the right way. Think of it as the traffic rules for data – it keeps things from getting chaotic.

Now, why do we need it? Well, imagine if there were no rules on the road. Cars would go in any direction, chaos would reign, and it'd be a mess. The same goes for data. Without data governance, information can become inaccurate, messy, and unreliable.

Table of Contents:

  1. Why we Need Data Governance Framework
  2. Key Players in Data Governance
  3. What is Data Quality?
  4. Why maintain Data Quality?
  5. Role of Data Governance in Maintaining Data Quality

Here are a Few Reasons we Need Data Governance Framework:

1. For Accuracy: We want our data to be like a trustworthy friend who always tells the truth. Data governance helps ensure that the information we use is accurate and up-to-date.

2. For Security: Just like you wouldn't want strangers snooping around your personal stuff, we don't want unauthorized people messing with our data. Data governance sets up protections to keep it safe.

3. For Consistency: Imagine if your favorite burger tasted different every time you ordered it. Consistency matters and data governance helps keep data consistent across different places and systems.

4. For Compliance: There are rules and laws about how we handle certain types of data, like personal information. Data governance helps us follow these rules to avoid trouble.

5. For Decision-Making: Good decisions are based on good information. Data governance ensures that the data used for decisions is reliable, which is crucial for businesses and organizations.

The Data Governance Market size is estimated at USD 2.73 billion in 2023, and is expected to reach USD 6.71 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 19.72% during the forecast period (2023-2028)

Data Governance Market Size
Source: Data Governance Market Size

Key Players in Data Governance

In data governance, several key players or roles work together to ensure that data is managed effectively. Here are some of the essential players:

Key Players in Data Governance
Fig: Key Players in Data Governance

1. Data Owners: Data owners have overall responsibility for specific datasets or data domains. They make decisions about who can access and modify the data and ensure that it aligns with the organization's goals.

2. Data Governance Council/Committee: This is a group of people within an organization who establish data governance policies, standards, and priorities. They make high-level decisions about data management.

3. Data Consumers: These are the end-users who rely on data for their work. They have a stake in ensuring that data is accurate and reliable.

4. Data Stewards: These are the folks responsible for managing and maintaining specific sets of data. They make sure data quality standards are met and that data is used appropriately within their designated areas.

5. Data Architects: Data architects design the structure and organization of data systems, ensuring they align with data governance requirements.

6. Data Analysts: Data analysts are the analytical data governance roles that collect, process, and analyze data to generate insights and recommendations for business problems or opportunities.

7. Compliance and Legal Teams: These teams ensure that data governance practices comply with relevant laws and regulations, especially in industries with strict data privacy requirements like healthcare or finance.

8. IT Department: The IT team plays a significant role in implementing and maintaining the technical aspects of data governance, such as data security, data storage, and data access.

What is Data Quality?

According to IBM, Data quality measures how well a dataset meets criteria for accuracy, completeness, validity, consistency, uniqueness, timeliness, and fitness for purpose, and it is critical to all data governance initiatives within an organization. Data quality issues cost the US economy an estimated $3.1 trillion per year.

Joo Ann Lee, Data Scientist, Witmer Group said — Data science isn’t about the quantity of data but rather the quality.”

Data quality is all about making sure that the information we have is correct and trustworthy. Imagine if you're baking cookies, and the recipe says you need one cup of sugar. If the sugar you use is actually salt, your cookies won't taste so great!

Likewise, in the world of data, if the information is wrong or messy, it can cause problems. People might make bad decisions based on that data. For example, a company might lose money if they rely on incorrect sales numbers.

So, the reason for caring about data quality is to avoid these kinds of problems. We want to be sure that the data we use is accurate and reliable, so we can make good decisions and avoid mistakes. It's like making sure you have the right ingredients for your cookies – it helps everything turn out better!

Why maintain data quality?

Maintaining data quality is like taking care of your garden. Just as you water your plants and remove weeds to keep your garden healthy, you need to look after your data to keep it useful and trustworthy. Here's why it's so important:

1. Better Decision-Making: Good data helps teams make smart choices. Imagine a weather forecast that's always wrong. You'd never know whether to bring an umbrella or wear shorts. Similarly, accurate data helps businesses make decisions that lead to success.

2. Efficiency: High-quality data leads to more efficient operations. Imagine a library with a well-organized catalog. You can find books quickly, and the library staff can manage their resources effectively. Similarly, organizations with clean data can work more efficiently.

3. Customer Satisfaction: Businesses that use accurate data can provide better customer service. For instance, an online retailer that keeps track of customer preferences can recommend products more effectively, enhancing the customer's shopping experience.

4. Cost Savings: Poor data quality can lead to wasted time and resources. For instance, if a company's customer database has duplicate entries, they might send multiple marketing materials to the same person, wasting money on postage and annoying the customer.

5. Customer Trust: If you're a customer and a company's website gives you the wrong information, you might lose trust in that company. Accurate data keeps customers happy and loyal.

Role of Data Governance in Maintaining Data Quality

We have discussed data quality, and in this section, we will now talk about the role of data governance in maintaining the quality of your data. Companies with a data governance program in place increase data analysis time by 2% and register a 31% improvement in data quality confidence.

Data Standards and Policies

Data standards are a set of rules, conventions, and guidelines that define how data should be structured, organized, and labeled within an organization. These standards are designed to ensure consistency and uniformity in data management practices. Here are some key aspects of data standards:

1. Data Structure: Data standards define the format and structure of data elements. For instance, they may specify that dates should be in the "YYYY-MM-DD" format, ensuring uniformity across the organization.

2. Data Naming Conventions: They establish consistent naming conventions for data elements. For example, all customer records may require a "First Name" and "Last Name" field rather than variations like "First_Name" or "Surname."

3. Data Definitions: Data standards include clear definitions for each data element, explaining its purpose, usage, and meaning. This helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that everyone interprets data consistently.

4. Data Encoding: In cases where data needs to be encoded (e.g., binary or hexadecimal), data standards dictate how this should be done to ensure data integrity.

5. Data Documentation: Standards often require detailed documentation of data sources, transformations, and dependencies. This documentation helps users understand the data's lineage and context.

Data policies are a set of guidelines and rules that govern how data should be managed, protected, and used within an organization. These policies help establish a data governance framework and ensure that data is treated responsibly and ethically. Here are some key aspects of data policies:

6. Access Control: Data policies define who has access to specific data and under what circumstances. They outline the roles and responsibilities of data custodians, stewards, and users.

7. Data Privacy: In the era of data protection regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, data policies dictate how sensitive and personally identifiable information (PII) should be handled, stored, and shared to comply with legal requirements. Data privacy compliance costs an average enterprise $5.47 million, while the cost of non-compliance averages $14.82 million.

8. Data Retention: Policies specify how long data should be retained and when it should be archived or deleted. This is essential for managing data storage costs and complying with data retention regulations.

9. Data Security: Data policies outline security measures and protocols to safeguard data from unauthorized access, breaches, or tampering. They may cover encryption, authentication, and auditing requirements. Everyone has the right to use company data to grow the business. Everyone has the responsibility to safeguard the data and protect the business.” — Travis James Fell, CSPO, CDMP, – Product Manager

10. Data Quality: Policies may include guidelines for maintaining data quality, such as regular data validation and cleansing procedures, to ensure data remains accurate and reliable.

11. Data Usage: They define the acceptable and responsible use of data within the organization. For instance, data policies may prohibit the use of company data for personal purposes.

Data Ownership

Data ownership refers to the clear assignment of responsibility and accountability for specific datasets within an organization. It involves identifying individuals or groups who are responsible for the creation, maintenance, quality, security, and overall management of data. These data stewards or owners ensure that data assets are used and handled correctly, in line with established policies and standards.

Key Aspects of Data Ownership:

1. Responsibility for Data Quality: Data owners are responsible for ensuring that the data under their purview is accurate, complete, and up to date. They oversee data collection processes and implement quality checks to maintain data integrity.

2. Data Access and Security: Data owners control who can access and modify the data they oversee. They establish access permissions and security protocols to protect data from unauthorized access or breaches.

3. Data Documentation: Data owners are typically responsible for documenting the metadata associated with their datasets. Metadata includes information about data sources, definitions, transformations, and usage guidelines. This documentation helps users understand the data's context and how to use it correctly.

4. Compliance and Governance: Data owners ensure that data usage complies with legal and regulatory requirements. They work closely with data governance teams to establish and enforce policies related to data privacy, security, and ethical usage.

5. Data Lifecycle Management: Data owners oversee the entire lifecycle of the data, from creation to archiving or deletion. They determine when data should be retained, archived, or purged based on its relevance and compliance requirements.

6. Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication is crucial for data owners. They collaborate with data users and stakeholders to understand their data needs and provide guidance on how to use data effectively. Clear communication helps prevent misunderstandings and misuse.

Why Data Ownership Matters:

1. Accountability: Data ownership ensures that someone is accountable for the quality and security of data. When an issue arises, there's a designated person or team to address it.

2. Data Stewardship: Data owners act as stewards, safeguarding the organization's valuable data assets. They make informed decisions about data management and usage.

3. Data Trustworthiness: Having clear data ownership inspires trust among data users. When they know who is responsible for data, they are more confident in its accuracy and reliability.

4. Compliance: Data ownership is crucial for regulatory compliance. It helps organizations meet legal requirements by ensuring proper data handling and protection.

Data Documentation

Data documentation refers to the process of creating comprehensive records and information about data assets within an organization. It is a critical aspect of data governance process and plays a vital role in maintaining data quality and ensuring that data is usable and understandable. Here's an in-depth look at data documentation:

1. Data Definitions: Data documentation begins with defining what each data element means. This includes clear and precise definitions of data fields, variables, and attributes. For example, if there's a data field named "Revenue," the documentation should specify that it represents the total income generated by the company.

2. Data Sources: Documenting the source of data is essential. It includes identifying where the data comes from, whether it's generated internally, collected from external sources, or derived from other data within the organization. Knowing the source helps assess data reliability and accuracy.

3. Data Collection Methods: Document how data is collected. This can include information about the tools, instruments, or systems used to gather data. For instance, if customer survey data is collected through online forms, the documentation should mention the survey tool and methodology.

4. Data Transformation Processes: If data undergoes any transformations, such as aggregations, calculations, or cleansing, these processes should be documented. This helps in understanding how the data has been modified and why.

5. Data Ownership and Stewardship: Clearly identify who is responsible for managing and maintaining specific datasets. Data documentation should include contact information for data owners and stewards who can provide insights and answer questions about the data.

6. Metadata: Metadata is data about data. It provides additional context and information about datasets. This can include details like data format, data size, last update date, and any relevant data constraints.

7. Data Quality Metrics: Define the metrics used to assess data quality. These metrics can include accuracy, completeness, timeliness, consistency, and reliability. Document how these metrics are measured and what constitutes acceptable levels of data quality.

8. Data Usage Guidelines: Specify how data should be used and any restrictions or limitations. This helps prevent misuse or misinterpretation of data. For example, if certain data is confidential and should only be used for specific purposes, this should be documented.

9. Data Lineage: Document the lineage of data, which shows how data flows through various systems and processes within the organization. This helps trace data back to its source and understand its journey.

10. Change History: Keep a record of any changes made to data definitions, sources, or other documentation elements. This historical record is valuable for tracking data evolution and ensuring transparency.

Data Quality Checks

In-depth data quality checks are systematic processes used to assess the accuracy, completeness, consistency, and reliability of data. These checks are essential for ensuring that the data an organization relies on is of high quality and can be trusted for decision-making. Here's a deeper look at data quality checks:

1. Accuracy: Accuracy checks focus on the correctness of data values. They involve comparing data points to a trusted source or a predefined standard. For example, if an organization collects customer addresses, accuracy checks would verify that each address is correct and matches postal records or known addresses.

2. Completeness: Completeness checks assess whether all necessary data is present. This involves making sure there are no missing values or fields. For instance, in a customer database, completeness checks ensure that every customer record has essential information like a name, email address, and phone number.

3. Consistency: Consistency checks examine data for uniformity and logical coherence. They ensure that data follows established rules and conventions. For instance, consistency checks might verify that product prices do not fall below a minimum threshold or that dates are in the correct format.

4. Reliability: Reliability checks evaluate the trustworthiness of data sources and data collection methods. This involves assessing whether data is gathered consistently and accurately over time. Organizations may need to validate data sources and methods periodically to ensure reliability.

5. Timeliness: Timeliness checks assess whether data is up-to-date and relevant. Depending on the context, timeliness may be crucial. For example, financial data needs to be current to support real-time decision-making, while historical records can have less stringent timeliness requirements.

Data Security

Data security is a critical aspect of protecting digital information from unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. It encompasses a wide range of practices, technologies, and policies aimed at safeguarding data and ensuring its confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Here are key components and concepts within data security:

1. Confidentiality: Confidentiality ensures that only authorized individuals or systems can access sensitive data. Methods for achieving confidentiality include access controls, encryption, and authentication mechanisms like usernames and passwords.

2. Integrity: Data integrity ensures that information remains accurate and trustworthy. It involves measures to prevent unauthorized changes, alterations, or corruption of data. Techniques like checksums, digital signatures, and version control help maintain data integrity.

3. Availability: Availability ensures that data is accessible when needed. This includes strategies to prevent downtime due to system failures, cyberattacks, or disasters. Redundancy, backup systems, and disaster recovery plans are vital for maintaining data availability.

4. Authentication: Authentication verifies the identity of users or systems attempting to access data. Common methods include passwords, biometrics (like fingerprints or facial recognition), and multi-factor authentication (using something you know, have, or are).

5. Authorization: Authorization follows authentication and determines what authorized users are allowed to do with data. It defines permissions and access levels, ensuring that individuals or systems only interact with data in approved ways.

Data Lifecycle Management

Data Lifecycle Management (DLM) is a comprehensive strategy that governs how data is created, used, stored, and eventually retired or deleted throughout its entire lifespan within an organization. It's a crucial component of the data governance model and aims to optimize data resources, ensure compliance, and enhance data quality. Let's dive deeper into the various stages of DLM:

1. Data Creation: The lifecycle begins with data creation. Data can be generated from various sources, such as customer interactions, sensors, transactions, or user inputs. During this stage, it's important to capture accurate and relevant data while adhering to data standards.

2. Data Usage: This stage involves data processing, analysis, and utilization. It's when data is actively used to make decisions, produce reports, or support operations. Data governance ensures that data is used appropriately, following established policies and standards.

3. Data Storage: After data is created and used, it needs a home. This stage includes decisions about where and how data should be stored. This can involve on-premises servers, cloud storage, databases, or data warehouses. Data governance plays a role in defining storage requirements, security measures, and access controls.

4. Data Archiving: Over time, some data becomes less frequently accessed but is still valuable for historical or compliance purposes. Data governance helps determine which data should be archived and the criteria for archiving. Archived data is typically moved to cost-effective, long-term storage solutions.

5. Data Retention: Data governance defines the duration data should be retained. Legal and regulatory requirements often dictate how long certain types of data must be kept. Compliance with these rules is essential to avoid legal issues. Once data reaches the end of its retention period, it can be securely deleted.

6. Data Deletion: Data that has outlived its usefulness and legal requirements must be deleted to reduce storage costs and minimize data risks. Data governance ensures that data is deleted securely, without leaving traces or violating any privacy regulations.

7. Data Restoration: In some cases, archived or deleted data may need to be restored. Data governance defines the procedures for data restoration, including verifying data integrity and ensuring that the restored data aligns with current standards and policies.

8. Data Destruction: When data reaches the end of its lifecycle and there are no legal obligations to retain it, data governance oversees its secure destruction. This process includes wiping data from storage devices or shredding physical documents, ensuring that it cannot be recovered.

9. Data Documentation: Throughout the entire lifecycle, data governance emphasizes the importance of documenting metadata, data lineage, and related information. This documentation helps stakeholders understand data's origin, purpose, and usage, promoting data quality and transparency.


In conclusion, in this article, we explored the critical role of data governance in maintaining data quality. We've delved into various facets of data governance, including data governance standards and policies, data ownership, data documentation, data quality checks, data security, and data lifecycle management.

Together, these components form a robust framework that ensures data remains accurate, reliable, and valuable to organizations and that enterprises master data governance best practices.

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