Companies that manage data governance well are in a better position to meet data protection and retention compliance requirements and to accomplish their digital transformation goals. Microsoft Office 365 makes comprehensive, streamlined data governance throughout your organization easy, with automation tools for setting policies governing data retention, expiration, and deletion.

Microsoft Office Data Governance

The majority of companies already have data governance (DG) policies in place for at least some of their data types and operations departments, though DG is often not comprehensive in many smaller to medium-sized businesses. Many times, informal rules evolve into stricter controls and eventually are formalized as policies.

Here’s some helpful information about data governance in Office 365 and some general advice on DG implementation planning and execution, to help you prepare to formalize your DG program.

What is Data Governance?

Data governance is the management system that ensures the maintenance of high data quality throughout the lifecycle of an organization’s essential data. This includes management of data security, accessibility, integrity and usability.

A proper data governance program has a governing group, a clear set of DG procedures, and an agreed plan for following the procedures.

A company’s procedures for ensuring formal management of its data should include clearly defined practices for monitoring of processes and enforcement of its data protection and retention requirements.

Why is Data Governance Important to Organizations?

The relevance of data governance for general data management and security should be obvious enough. Still, many companies fear to try implementing a data governance program, because it seems too complicated, or because there is a strong sense of uncertainty about the sustainability of such a program as a component of their diverse operational processes.

Data Governance in Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 provides a set of exceptionally intuitive tools to protect your business’s data against security threats, potential accidental leaks or deletions, and other risks to data retention and integrity, and to regulatory compliance. Data governance tools are located in the Office 365 platform’s Security & Compliance Center in Microsoft software products including:

  • Office 365 Business Essentials
  • Office 365 Business Premium
  • All levels of Office 365 Enterprise packages
  • Exchange Online Plans 1, 2 and Kiosk
  • SharePoint Online Plans 1 and 2
  • Skype for Business Online Plans 1 and 2.

Key Advantages of Data Management in Microsoft 365

Easily Assess and Manage Compliance Using Just One Set of Functions.

Microsoft Cloud services allow you to assess compliance risks and increase your data protection by using the Office 365 Compliance Manager. The Compliance Manager enables DG actions in the categories of Ongoing Risk Assessment, Actionable Insights, and Simplified Compliance. Obtain more in-depth information on data protection and compliance through your Service Trust Portal.

Conveniently Govern Data Handling and Protect Sensitive Data Throughout Its Lifecycle.

Implement a comprehensive DG program that will automatically classify and protect valuable data across all of your company’s connected devices, cloud services and apps. Apply encryption, access and retention rules, and other governance strategies to help ensure data compliance, protection and quality.

Leverage Powerful AI to Respond Efficiently to Regulators’ Requests and More.

Use Microsoft Office 365’s robust eDiscovery functions to locate obscure relevant legal information, even amidst unstructured data. Easily acquire insights into all your business’s data-related activities by using Office 365’s comprehensive activity API and auditing tools.

Microsoft 365 Data Governance Features and Benefits

A formal DG program is usually undertaken at the point when a company grows to a size at which the staff can no longer implement cross-functional tasks involving data with the same degree of efficiency that they maintained as a small startup team.

While there will be implementation challenges in the area of team coordination, Office 365 takes the pain out of DG implementation on the technical end. Some of the benefits of using Office 365 Data Governance functionality include:

  • Automated data classification greatly simplifies rule applications.
  • Intelligent policies generated through powerful machine learning bring best practices to your decision process.
  • Built-in DG policies make regulatory compliance quick and straightforward to implement.
  • Over 80 built-in IDs of sensitive content types do the work of identifying possibly needed categorizations for you.
  • Automated policies help ensure proper systemic handling of data retention, expiration and deletion.
  • Policies you set immediately purge redundant, obsolete data and other unnecessary data, and preserve your important data.
  • You can fully customize your data retention policies, to have your sensitive data handled precisely as you determine it should be.
  • Your data is classified and labeled, and protected and retained based on the policies you choose, based on varying levels of sensitivity across your company’s data assets.
  • DG policies set in Office 365 help in regulatory compliance regarding data privacy (like HIPAA, GDPR, SEC regs, etc.).
  • You can tailor policies for various departments and enforce policies differently for multiple users.
  • Data preservation lock policies encrypt data and can’t be turned off or rendered less restrictive.
  • With minimal pointing and clicking, Microsoft Office 365 Data Governance functions can reduce your compliance risks throughout Office 365.
  • Having a clear picture of what data assets your company owns, and where it is in your system helps ensure compliance and security of your important data.

Challenges in Data Governance Implementation

Implementing DG programs in any business using any technology is not an uneventful undertaking. Some of the biggest problems to smooth implementation include:

  • Organizational Culture — DG succeeds best in open company cultures wherein fundamental changes are welcomed. DG becomes political, involving redistributing responsibilities. Sensitivity is required.
  • Upper Management and Budget — Persuading upper management of the need for DG and to allocate sufficient budget for the project can be challenging. Succeed in this before proceeding.
  • Universal Acceptance — DG requires buy-in from all departments and individuals. Top management and project managers especially must thoroughly understand the technical and business considerations and champion the project.
  • Standardizing DG — Flexibility is needed to grapple with rapidly-changing requirements. It’s critical to strike a winning balance between the needs of staff to acclimate and the need for a timely transition to full conformance to new DG standards.
  • Maintaining DG — Be mindful of the need for preventing data mismanagement and imposing repressive policies that are not conducive to a healthy team environment, to sustain long-term success of DG and to promote the overall interests of the business and its team.

Data Governance Implementation Project Best Practises

Data governance is a permanent proposition. Implementation and long-term oversight teams risk participants losing their sense of priority and commitment to the program over time. So, it’s recommended to begin with an application-specific, data-type-specific, or other prototypical introductory project and then continue in phases (of no longer than 3 months each). Keeping the project manageable allows for more natural adaptation and greater confidence in broader adoption.

Common DG implementation steps include:

  • Analyze the current condition of the company’s data management and data quality.
  • Define objectives and goals for the DG implementation project.
  • Ensure that top management fully supports and budgets for the project.
  • Ensure that all employees understand the importance of the project and support it.
  • Define roles for parties, including DG strategy steering committee, DG Oversight Board, Data Manager, Data Stewards, Data Owners, Data Users.
  • Develop a set of data governance program policies.
  • Create a roadmap for implementation.
  • Implement the data governance program.
  • Monitor and enforce the DG policies.
  • Repeat the above steps each time changes are made that can affect the program.

Final Recommendations for Data Governance Implementation

Before starting DG implementation, reasons for the project should be clarified, to help prevent wasting time on unnecessary tasks. Evaluate current processes and adapt them to the planned new DG requirements, if practical vs. unnecessarily developing entirely new procedures.

Evaluate various data governance platforms and compare the difference in functional blocks for data integration, master data management, metadata management, data integration, data protection and data quality insights.

When you embark on your data governance initiative, avoid reinventing the wheel. As much as possible, use proven implementation methodologies, structural models and best practices already available in software tools, technical information libraries, or Managed IT Services consultants.

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