Data governance has a number of definitions, but I like Google’s definition best. According to Google, it means “a principled approach to managing data during its lifecycle, from acquisition to use to disposal.” This definition does two things: It provides a strategic view of data governance, and it stresses the importance of the role of principles that apply to data throughout its existence. These two concepts are key to developing an effective data governance program.
Let’s talk about how data governance affects university success, and how some simple adjustments can alleviate the headaches.
Practically speaking, the need for data governance applies to all colleges and universities. Data about students serves as the basis for university operations and is the result of the product that universities deliver. But, in my experience as a technology leader for colleges and universities, all institutions struggle with data governance. Take, for example, this typical scenario:
A university decides to combine two programs to create efficiencies, and instead of separate occupational therapy and physical therapy programs, they decide to create an OT/PT (occupational therapy/physical therapy) program. Faculty and administration sign off on the change and off they go, rebranding their adverts and course catalog. Meanwhile, no one has thought to update their web forms. Prospective students are selecting from drop-down menus with old program data, and therefore there are few prospects inquiring about OT/PT. Additionally, enrollment reports don’t seem to include the students in the new program, and their historical data from both programs seems to have dropped from the reports. The number of interested students in the new program is reported to have tapered off when, in reality, there are many interested students! The data is just not getting to the right places.
This is a common scenario at colleges and universities, and one that can be solved through a combination of strategy and adherence to shared data governance principles:
- Create a Data Governance Committee – A committee of “power users” of data applications can lead an effort to implement data governance at a college or university. A data governance committee should be a place where changes to data are discussed and vetted, and folks work together to ensure that changes and updates to data are commonly managed across all systems.
- Implement a Data Governance Policy – This should be a policy that identifies where data is, who owns it and who can make changes can provide a framework for ensuring that data is properly managed throughout its lifecycle. Good policies codify the principles of data governance and provide a means for enforcement of the policy so that departments know and understand the importance of working together to maintain data integrity.
- Assign Data Champions – Many colleges and universities have data champions. Often, these are folks like the registrar or the head of institutional research who have complicated jobs and little extra time. Having a position that is responsible for data governance can be a way to properly source a role that is essential to university success.
- Create a Data Change Control Process – In IT, we use change control boards to manage changes to IT systems and applications. The same should be done for data. Having a change control process, forms and a solid framework allows data champions to properly process changes and to make sure that data is accurately configured and managed across all integrated applications and systems.
By implementing these four elements, colleges and universities can manage change effectively and ensure that students are well-served through consistent governance of institutional data.
Establish Data Governance with a Partner
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