Introducing the Data Governance Office 

Daniel Farrell
Thursday 18 August 2022

Most staff members will interact with data as part of their role. This can include anything from updating student records to collecting responses using Microsoft Forms. Within IT Services, the Data Governance Office team has been introduced to oversee data activities at the University. The function will: 

  • manage change requests to the Data Warehouse 
  • investigate data-related issues, especially where these are represented in more than one system or business area 
  • provide support and expertise to new and current staff 

Why do we need a Data Governance Office? 

The Data Governance Office was set up in summer 2021 in response to data concerns that are common to universities. It aims to support the following outcomes.

Saving staff time

Like most things in business, we don’t understand why we need something until we see or experience it first-hand. For example, before the pandemic, staff used to walk 20-30 minutes to meetings, losing out on the productivity benefits that Microsoft Teams meetings offered. Now that we have adopted the tool, we can’t imagine going back to old and less efficient ways of working. Our data landscape is very similar to this.

Evidence-led decision making 

As a basic example, say we have £1M worth of marketing funds. We already capture where students are travelling from so, we should be able to quickly tell where we need to focus our efforts. Imagine if we discovered this data was captured inaccurately (USA, America, United States all appearing as three different places), was duplicated, or not captured at all. Data quality goes beyond our day-to-day and allows us to make evidence-led strategic and financial decisions as a University.

Day-to-day performance

When staff members need to access information but have no idea who owns it or where it’s located, we’ll often capture it again or spend time tracking down the owner. Poor data quality can also affect how we perform, slowing us down because we need to validate each transaction as we go. Like the Teams meeting scenario, we don’t realise how much time is lost until we’re working in a more efficient way – in this case, with single source data and defined data owners.  

Risk reduction 

The benefit of having a team at the University that offers expertise in data management is the reduced risk of data corruption or loss because of inconsistent practices. Where issues arise, the Data Governance Office team will be able to help you diagnose the root causes and can support you with solutions.  

Ease future auditing 

As more complex data is created, this will be reflected in future audits and regulations. We need to ensure our data is accurate to be compliant. For example, how can we prove we’re a carbon neutral University if this data is not accurately captured? Common terminology and a shared understanding of responsibilities also eases auditing processes. The Data Governance policy was published earlier this year which outlines common terms, roles and responsibilities.  

When introducing new systems 

When we need to buy or develop a new system, we need to understand what data is needed and how it’s sourced. In the past, this was done on an individual basis each time. Moving forwards, the Data Governance Office team aims to create a single map of our data landscape to FastTrack and standardise this scoping activity.    

Enabling future innovation 

Delivering high quality digital services is integral to a good student experience and we need quality data to enable this. Personalised student apps and automations all rely on clean underlying datasets.  From a support perspective, new technologies are entering the market which can improve the efficiency of how we work. Countless local spreadsheets and inefficient data practices limit these opportunities. 

When to contact the Data Governance Office

If you need support with data-related activities, the Data Governance Office team can offer guidance and support. This includes:  

  • Checking best practice before capturing new data  
  • Reviewing data handling processes in your area  
  • Offering expertise ahead of new system procurement or development  

Log a call with the IT Service Desk in the first instance to access these services.  

As we move forward, we will publish case studies to evidence the benefit of this service and online data governance training will also be available in the next few months. 

 

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