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It is interesting to learn that adequate data governance is lacking in the vast majority of businesses, the impact of which can result in brand degradation and company reputation, reduced customer loyalty as well as affecting the bottom line, with lower revenue and increased costs impacting on profit margins.

Organisations and people working with, for example, geospatial data need to realise the value of their data and in doing so assume responsibility for it. This can be achieved by appointing data stewards or managers to ensure that it is cared for in a manner similar to other company assets, such as machinery or IT. Data management is often thought to be the responsibility of the IT department but it should be responsible for the ‘pipework’ or ‘plumbing’ with data stewards responsible for the information flowing through the pipes!

A good starting point for considering data governance is auditing our data and will necessarily involve people from different departments working together to better understand what data we have, where it resides in the business and its provenance. This will help the organisation overcome the ‘silo’ mentality and a lack of communication between departments that often prevails.

Without data governance we have effectively got a state of data ‘anarchy’ or disorder.  Developing a data governance framework through a data policy and management plan is a logical first step followed by understanding the data life-cycle from creation to ingestion, storage, use and re-use through to its archiving and curation.

"When is the best time to delete my data?” is a question that is often asked to which the answer should be 'never'. Data will always retain some residual value if curated correctly, along with appropriate metadata, which allows people and machines to search for a data ‘resource’ using key words to discover what exists and then view and potentially download that resource.  Data quality can be deduced by understanding the condition of the data with the expectations or particular purpose, or both, in mind and then by drawing conclusions about whether it satisfies those expectations.

With an increasing amount of publically and privately funded data now being made available more freely, across Europe and other parts of the World, the flood gates for re-use are now opening - made possible in part by Open Data ‘by default’ policies being promulgated by governments across the World. In reality, data access and choice is now making it easier for government, commerce and increasingly by the citizen to access, re-use, share, integrate and harmonise data in a way that was not considered feasible or desirable a few years ago.

So to conclude, data is too valuable a resource not to be properly governed so I would encourage all organisations to treat data with the respect it deserves because 'your data really does matter!'

John Pepper - Director, OceanWise Ltd


About the author

John has 40 years’ experience in the geospatial information industry, specialising in data collection and management, training, planning, policy and strategy, business development and marketing in the UK and overseas.

He trained as a land surveyor at Ordnance Survey Great Britain (OSGB) and held several senior management positions in both OSGB and the UK Hydrographic Office before leaving the Civil Service to join OceanWise in 2010, a start-up company specialising in Marine Data Management Products and Services, as a Director and Shareholder. 

He holds professional qualifications in Surveying Science and Geodesy and a post graduate qualification in Marketing and Strategic Planning.  He is a past Chair of the AGI, a Chartered Marketer and a member of the Institute of Leadership and Management.


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