Running a business, especially a small one, it’s never truly easy. Putting everything together, raising capital, and developing a business strategy are only part of a much larger scale operation. When you actually get into running the business itself, data becomes a valuable commodity by which your organization can succeed or fail. Accumulating data and understanding it is all part of a successful business strategy. Although you may not realize it, you need to have a data governance and integrity plan in place. Data governance is part of a much larger whole that ensures data can be trusted and maintains integrity. Here are five ways it’s important and integral to any small business regardless of industry.


In small businesses, having a data governance framework is just as important as it is in a larger one. Data governance frameworks are templates intended to help reinforce and define how data gets used, stored, and disseminated within an organization. That’s why having a strong data governance policy is a critical part of the overall governance framework. Policies define the rules and expectations for how data is managed within the organization. It covers everything from creation to storage, and even deletion. Policies also establish procedures to make sure your data is accurate, consistent, and secure. It should cover internal/external sharing and storage as well, otherwise the business could find itself in hot water down the line. Aiming for a well-crafted data policy can help an organization meet compliance requirements and protect against expensive data breaches or other potential problems in the future.


Part of defining your data governance policies involves defining standards as well. Understanding data standards can be a little tricky. A typical definition of a standard is something that is considered a technical expectation. Usually this covers storage, retrieval, and sharing of data. As your business establishes its data governance framework policies, standards typically come into play. The standards cover metadata, its use, and how it should be disseminated. They also should cover data naming policies, modeling, and any unique conventions exclusive to the company. For example, if you’re planning to use abbreviations for certain types of data, it should be included as a standard within the context of your data governance framework. Failure to be descriptive and meticulous in this area can lead to data Integrity issues or other problems. Be sure to establish standards as part of your overall framework during the policy establishment phase.


Unless you’ve been living in a secluded area over the past couple of years, even doubtedly heard or read news about various breaches happening throughout different industries. Consumer information bureaus, retail outlets, even oil pipelines have had their data compromised by attackers over the past few years. So it goes without saying that an integral part of data governance frameworks is the security of the data. Part of your secure data governance framework should focus heavily on being prepared for potential threats and an action plan for reacting to possible data theft. When establishing a security plan, ask yourself how you’re going to protect data from breaches or unauthorized access. Define who can access the data and where it is going to be stored. Consider using robust security to prevent cyber attacks. These might be as simple as firewalls or encryption methods. It’s also a good idea to take things a step further and define who has access by using administrative controls. Ultimately, securing your data should be a heavy focus area when establishing data governance at your organization.


Getting the most out of your data governance strategy  requires education and data literacy. Having a true and profound understanding of how data works within the organization is crucial to governing it successfully. This can happen through literacy and data democratization. The ladder is especially important because it ensures everyone in the organization is familiar with how to use data without the requirement of being a data scientist themselves. Teach employees how to use KPIs to understand data. Reinforce the importance of your data security protocols. Teach them how to understand and use metadata while remaining in compliance with GDPR (along with any other regulatory agencies requirements). Data literacy is a big part of governing data effectively. Educated users always lead to better decisions that have the potential to maximize the value of your business’ data. So be sure to use that to your advantage and promote data literacy at your small business.

Measuring Impact

A big part of running a small business is using metrics to define success and inform future decisions. Key performance indicators play a significant role in this process. When you’re establishing a data governance framework, you need to define some kpis for your organization. How are you going to measure success? A few KPIs that are worth looking into for small businesses are cash flow, lead generation, funnel drop-off rates, growth, revenue, and profit margins vs sales. With each of these comes a plethora of data that will need to be stored, retrieved, deleted, and worked with at your organization. If you have the proper governance procedures in place—along with the appropriate key performance indicators to understand what the numbers mean—you’ll be setting yourself up for future compliance and success across your entire business.