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While data governance continues to evolve as a discipline, we view it as the process by which online marketing and digital analytics organizations define and manage different types and categories of data related to behavior tracking, audience measurement, ecommerce and other aspects of online business. Synonymous with “quality control,” data governance strives to ensure companies have reliable and consistent data sets to assess performance and make management decisions.
It’s critical to remember that effective governance is not a one-time exercise, but rather a fully developed effort and repeatable process. That’s the only way to ensure ongoing compliance with corporate standards and requirements, data integrity in light of future changes (like evolving business challenges, emerging technologies and new data flows). Good judgment and sound decision making are at the heart of data governance.
Data governance matters to companies in five essential ways:
1. A central role of data governance is to ensure that metrics are defined consistently across the organization. So when managers or analysts talk about “conversion rates” or “unique visitors,” everyone else knows precisely what they’re talking about. Without clearly documented standards around metrics, decisions may be made around false assumptions. Obviously, communication and reporting suffer in such situations, an especially important consideration in environments with multiple analytics tools.
2. Analysis and reporting issues are most often data governance problems, not technology problems. Many organizations are quick to blame their tools or technology when there is confusion about the meaning of Web analytics data or lack of clarity in reports. Typically, the tools and reports have not been configured to clarify what various metrics mean, how they align to specific goals, or where they may vary from data provided by different systems. Companies end up ripping and replacing perfectly good systems before doing the necessary governance work to ensure they work properly.
3. Data governance guides all other analytics activities. Data governance informs everything from analytics software implementation to page tagging to report design. It ensures that your data capture mechanisms are set up to capture what you need to capture. It may also outline who is responsible for which Web analytics tasks or data. Perhaps most importantly, data governance can help ensure that there is clear alignment between Web analytics tactics and big-picture strategic goals.
4. Truly effective data governance helps eliminate those headaches by clarifying what metrics mean, which are the most important, how internal numbers relate to outside ratings and why there may be gaps. More clarity means more confidence in decisions and more peaceful nights for everyone. There is also a compliance angle here. With more legal and financial reporting ramifications for online businesses, effective governance models can ensure all of your online operations follow relevant privacy policies, data security guidelines and consumer information regulations, especially around cookie usage.
5. Having a firm grip on how you define “page views” or other core metrics can help you when you’re negotiating to buy or sell advertising. You won’t be low-balled because an external organization (like an ad network) claims your traffic is too low or theirs is too high. And you’ll be able to probe the metrics used by others to price their own inventory and determine if their information is credible and accurate. Even if you’re not in the advertising market, data governance can save you money in other ways. For example, it may help you avoid the premature and costly “flipping” of systems.