Data Governance: The Key to Strategic Planning

Data is power and behind every data point is a human story. Your data tells you who is supporting your mission and offers insights into how, when, and even why they choose to give. Building an informed strategic plan relies on your ability to gather, interpret, optimize, and safeguard this data. No matter the scale of your organization, an effective data governance framework is necessary to communicate your impact clearly to grantmakers and donors alike. More importantly, it creates a culture of security to safeguard their trust. Whether you’re at the beginning of your data journey, or ensuring your practices are up to date, the following tips will push your data strategy in the right direction:

Determine your Goals

When setting out to adopt a new data governance framework, or assessing your next steps for growth, set goals that are aligned with the key strategy and outcomes for your organization. Your data is the tool that will drive success across departments, at every stage. Establish data goals that will support your long term vision by scaling as you grow.

Analyze Your Systems

Audit your current data systems for security, continuity of use, and capabilities. This can be done internally or through external review by a consultant. A regular cadence should be established to revisit and reanalyze to ensure data health and security. You will want to account for infrastructure, physical and cloud storage, applications, encryption, and authentication procedures.

Foster a Culture of Security

Your digital ecosystem is made of up three parts: People, Systems, and Processes. Security should be the tie that binds them! Your people are stewards of your mission and the heart of the organization. They each play a role as collectors of information and stewards of data security. Your system is the place where information is kept and should help you to be efficient and effective. This is what will enable you to achieve your outcomes and measure your impact. Your processes are how you carry out functions and should have a clear procedure that can be followed across the organization.

Change Management is Key

The adoption of new data governance practices must be prioritized through an effective change management plan if it’s to succeed. Stay positive, rather than dwelling on past challenges. Identify how the new systems will improve day-to-day operations and how they fit into your long-term goals. Finally, create a roadmap and set clear goals with evaluation criteria for hitting each goal. All stakeholders should be included in the planning and communication should be maintained throughout the assessment and adoption process.

Stay Informed and Curious

Adopting a new data governance system is not a one-time process. Once in place, stakeholders should continue to check in on the capabilities, new challenges, and opportunities that arise. Once a framework is in place, welcoming new systems and approaches is a key part of maintenance. Build this maintenance into your goals, and you will continue to find ways for data to benefit you, your staff, and your constituents!