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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How to transform information into insights with data governance

November 15, 2021 | By Declan Owens, Digital Analytics Expert – Piano @OwensDS

The world is estimated to produce about 175ZB of data by 2025. That’s a big number. It is also a big opportunity for brands and publishers looking to better understand and engage their consumers. But the sheer volume of this information in and of itself can be a barrier for organizations. Data is often collected in silos across organizations, leading to disparate tools to manage it and, as a result, inaccurate information. 

Having the right data, technology and personnel can help businesses turn data into insights that drive business performance. The way to get there is with a data governance strategy. Simply put, data governance means being in control of the data you have. It ensures the data you collect is good, allows you to democratize it so it’s accessible by everyone who needs it and keeps you compliant as privacy legislation evolves.

For digital media executives in particular, the opportunity to unify and extract insights from rich data spanning subscriptions, ad revenue, content engagement and customer profiles can strengthen direct user relationships, which boosts loyalty and retention down the line. In addition, organizations that effectively implement data governance have the potential to save millions of dollars and enable equally valuable digital and analytics use cases. Here’s how you can ensure your data governance strategy leads to insights that drive this type of business performance.

Business first, data second

Data governance entails managing data so your organization has the business intelligence needed to meet its revenue targets and business goals. It might sound counterintuitive, but focusing data governance on the data itself rather than business needs can actually disintermediate you from this objective. It can also cut you off from the stakeholders you need to buy into the data governance program in the first place.

Instead, link data governance policies and procedures to business priorities and their corresponding KPIs. This way, you’ll engage in more meaningful discourse with the rest of the business and be seen as a contributor to overall company success by enabling insights to be harnessed. Align data governance metrics with overall business metrics — such as increasing digital subscription revenue — and tie them to stakeholders who can own their ongoing optimization and become champions of the program. These stakeholders can then use data governance to pinpoint analytics and data use cases that should be prioritized as measured by the value they can bring to the business.

Don’t go too big too soon

When you start on a path to data governance, it’s easy to want to explore all the data in your organization. But this type of ambitious approach often ends in scope creep. It also means you are not prioritizing which data sets and projects would most move the needle on overall business needs.

Instead, start with two or three areas of data (for example, transactional data and product data) that you can build a roadmap against to fully operationalize and measure performance. Then, within each, identify the most important data elements used for analytics, reporting or operations that should be monitored across the organization.

Share the data wealth

Data democratization makes data accessible to any and everyone who needs it within a business. To support this effort, you will need to inform all departments about all the data managed within the company: Where it’s located, how to access it, and its meaning, context, use case, quality and reliability. As a digital publisher, collaborating with the audience insights, editorial and development technology teams will be critical to evolving the full picture of your users. 

But it doesn’t end there. How this data is being used across different teams and for new use cases is worth communicating across the organization to enable knowledge-sharing and innovation. Let the entire business become aware of how data is used to tell stories about solving key business challenges and exposing new opportunities. For publishers, this can help balance an overarching subscription strategy with editorial and advertising strategies to ensure all teams can work together to meet their goals. 

Good data is the foundation of good decision-making. Organizations that fail to use a proper data governance strategy to drive insights will face an uphill battle to meet their business objectives. Those that instead pursue data governance in a way that maps to business goals, holds stakeholders accountable and enables true collaboration and knowledge-sharing will be on their way to building a truly data-driven organization.

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