What’s the difference between data governance and data management?

The language used when discussing data governance can be incredibly subjective. Data governance is full of jargon and buzzwords, which all mean different things to different people. And it can be very confusing for people who are new to data governance or who move between industries and organisations to keep track of what means what and where.

This is something I have spoken about a lot recently in my blogs and videos as I try to break down some of the key words, phrases and definitions and make them as accessible as possible to you.

The question of the difference between data governance and data management is one that comes up every now and then, and I was most recently reminded of it after I spotted an article on LinkedIn, which, for me, unfortunately did not cut the mustard in terms of helping the reader fully understand the difference between these two terms and what they mean in a practical sense.

The wrong answer

This particular article said that data governance was all the things you can do to manage your data, so the rules and what you would want them to do, and data management was the technical implementation of it.

However, that is not a useful definition and I believe it will confuse data users, particularly those who are in the middle of trying to implement a data governance initiative.

I believe that before we begin to understand the difference, we first need to understand what both of these things actually are.

What is data management?

Data management is the umbrella term for all the different disciplines that you can use to manage and improve your data better and data governance is just one of those disciplines.

What is data governance?

Data Governance is all about proactively managing your data to support your business achieve its strategy and vision.

What’s the difference?

I believe the best way to explain the difference is to refer you to the DAMA wheel.

DAMA is a data management professional association, of which I am a director of the UK chapter. And if you are interested in data governance or are involved in the implementation of data governance initiatives within your organisation then you probably should consider joining your local chapter.

Now, DAMA International, amongst many things, produces a data management book of knowledge known as the DMBoK (Data Management Book of Knowledge). It’s a comprehensive guide to data management standards and practices for data management professionals.

What you will find in there are chapters on everything related to data management.

There are descriptions and summaries of every single discipline and for many years now they have put all of these together in a diagram called the DMBoK Wheel or the DAMA Wheel.  This wheel is broken up into segments with each data management discipline given its own section around the outside and in the middle, we have data governance.

Now, this wheel can sometimes be the source of people’s confusion as they interpret it a little incorrectly. They believe that data management and data governance are the same because data governance is at the centre of the wheel and therefore that the terms must be interchangeable, but I can tell you that’s not the case at all.

Data management is the umbrella term for all the different disciplines that you could use to manage and improve your data better and data governance is just one of those disciplines. DAMA puts data governance in the centre of that wheel because it actually underpins everything else.

Now, many of us start data governance initiatives primarily to monitor and improve data quality, but data governance is aligned to and supports all other data management disciplines – whether you’re talking about master data management, reference data management, data warehousing, data modelling or data architecture.

There are so many out there disciplines out there, but once you have a good framework in place, through having data governance, you have clear roles and responsibilities and it is very easy for you, whatever discipline you work in, to know who to contact to get consistent decisions made around your data.

Quite simply, data governance is one of many data management disciplines. Data Governance gives you the framework of roles and responsibilities and processes to enable you to understand your data and manage it better. So, data management is the overarching umbrella term and data governance is just one of the disciplines that sit within that.

Don’t forget if you have any questions you’d like covered in future videos or blogs please contact me using the comment box below.

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