Build a Collaborative Data Governance Culture by Breaking Down Silos
In many cases, Reinitz says, certain groups might feel a degree of ownership or territoriality over certain sets of data because of its relevance to their own departments or their role in aggregating it. “It’s important to remember, however, that data is an institutional asset,” she says.
Divided as institutions are by different schools and academic departments — not to mention professional departments like IT, enrollment or student life — silos are often unavoidable in higher education.
Those silos often are one of the biggest barriers to developing and implementing an effective data governance strategy across an institution. That’s because data governance works best as a Venn diagram than in silos, says Matthew Hagerty, a consultant who specializes in IT, efficiency and analytics, and faculty engagement at EAB, a Washington D.C.-based education consulting firm.
“Make sure the right people are in the room to craft that policy,” Hagerty says. He says that many times during initial data governance meetings, “maybe halfway through, someone will raise their hand and ask, “‘Wait a second. Why isn’t Bob from finance here? Who’s representing human resources in this committee?’”
“So, the first step is to make sure that we have the right people in the room to set that policy,” he says.
The Risks of Not Establishing Data Governance in Higher Ed
When it comes to creating an institutional culture that supports data governance and stakeholder buy-in, it’s critical that institutions educate stakeholders about the risks associated with falling short. From privacy violations to revenue loss, colleges and universities have much to lose from mismanaged or poorly utilized data.
Between 2020 and 2021, cyberattacks on colleges and universities increased 75 percent. The risk of an attack succeeding significantly increases without a reliable, comprehensive data governance strategy, says Brian Kelly, formerly director of the cybersecurity program at EDUCAUSE and now virtual CISO at Compass IT Compliance.
“Without governance, the whole lifecycle of the data — how it’s being collected and stored, who’s collecting it, how they’re using it, and how it’s disposed of — is vulnerable to risk,” says Kelly. Data governance, he explains, allows institutions to put into place controls and processes to ensure that only the right people have access to the right data at the right time. It also helps schools to achieve another crucial best practice: transparency.