Sustaining Data Governance: The Crucial Role of Tools and Technology

Hallway with many columns opening up

In the realm of data governance, the integration of tools and technology is inseparable from the people and processes driving the entire system. As we delve into the final installment of our blog series on data governance, it is essential to emphasize the interconnectedness of these elements. Whether you're managing data in Excel or orchestrating a data warehouse with complex API pipelines, the principles guiding effective data governance remain constant.

As we explore the foundational principles of maintaining effective data governance and delve into specific tools relevant to data warehousing, it's crucial to recognize that various other tools exist within this domain. While we'll highlight examples tailored to warehousing, the key takeaway is to grasp the overarching concepts and strategically leverage tools that align best with the unique needs and objectives of your organization. The versatility of available tools allows for a customized approach, ensuring seamless support for your data governance initiatives.

The Five Pillars of Sustainable Data Governance
1. Identity and Access Management

Determining Who Has Access

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a critical component of data governance, focusing on authenticating users and managing their access. Understanding who has access to the data is the first step in securing it.

User Accounts and Credential Types

Establishing user accounts connected to specific use cases (Admin, Analyst, etc.) is crucial. Different credential types, such as API Keys, Access Tokens (e.g., Auth0), and Service Account Keys, serve various purposes and must be managed appropriately.

Defining Access Roles and Permissions

Authorization involves defining roles that determine access rights. Roles consist of sets of permissions that can limit access to metadata, rows, tables, and more. Creating groups with similar roles aligned with the job function streamlines the management of access permissions.

Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service) offers built-in access management features for databases on the AWS platform, and Azure SQL Database provides Azure Active Directory integration for access control.

Least Privilege Principle

Following the principle of least privilege, you want to provide the minimum necessary privileges to your users. IAM policies can propagate from projects to resources and datasets, creating a hierarchical access control system. AWS and Azure both use role-based access control systems. 

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) allows you to define roles with specific permissions and assign them to users or resources in AWS, and Azure Active Directory (AAD) provides role-based access control for Azure services and resources.

Remember that enforcing the principle of least privilege is not only about tools but also about adopting a comprehensive approach that includes regular reviews, audits, and updates to access policies to adapt to changing requirements and potential security threats.

2. Setting Rules for Security and Compliance

Policies serve as rules or guardrails that enable efficient operations within the boundaries of security and compliance. Assigning policies at the organizational, unit, project, or team levels helps maintain a structured approach to data governance.

Azure and AWS both have tools to define and enforce policies for cloud resources hosted there to ensure compliance with security best practices and regulatory requirements.

When implementing security and compliance rules, organizations should customize these tools according to their specific requirements, regulations, and internal policies. Regular monitoring, auditing, and updates to rules and configurations are also critical to maintaining a secure and compliant IT environment.

3. Context-Aware Access and Data Loss Prevention

Nonprofits, like any other organizations, need to prioritize data security and implement measures to prevent data loss. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools play a crucial role in identifying, monitoring, and protecting sensitive data from unauthorized access or disclosure.

Microsoft Cloud App Security, for example, integrates with Microsoft 365 and other cloud applications to provide DLP features for cloud-based environments.

Implementing context-aware access ensures that access rules are applied based on the specific context. Regularly scanning for sensitive information through Data Loss Prevention mechanisms is crucial for safeguarding sensitive data.

4. Monitoring and Auditing

Breach Monitoring and Response

Monitoring for security breaches is a continuous process, complemented by a well-defined breach response policy. Regular checks for unauthorized access contribute to maintaining a secure data environment.

AWS CloudWatch, Azure Monitor, and Google Cloud Operations Suite all offer native tools for monitoring and logging to track activities in cloud environments.

Nonprofits need to tailor their breach monitoring strategy to their specific needs, considering the types of data they handle, their IT infrastructure, and any compliance requirements they must adhere to. Additionally, regular training and awareness programs for staff can enhance the organization's overall security posture.

Data Quality Monitoring

Monitoring and alerting systems for data quality issues, including data entry errors, updates, receipt anomalies, and QA issues, play a pivotal role in upholding the integrity of the governed data.

Microsoft Data Quality Services (DQS), part of SQL Server, helps in building and maintaining data quality solutions. It includes features for data cleansing and matching. If you have the resources and need the power tools, you might look into Talend, Trifacta, or Collibra as well. 

When selecting a data quality monitoring tool, nonprofits should consider factors such as ease of use, scalability, integration capabilities with other systems, and cost. It's also important to define and understand specific data quality metrics and requirements relevant to the organization's goals and objectives. Additionally, regular data quality assessments and audits can help nonprofits maintain a high standard of data quality over time.

5. Data Archiving and Destruction

Retention and Removal

Creating and enforcing data retention and removal policies is vital for effective data governance. These policies guide the archiving and destruction of data, ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. AWS and Azure both have tools to help with this, including:

  • AWS
    • Amazon Glacier: A low-cost, secure, and durable storage solution suitable for archiving.
    • Amazon S3 Lifecycle Policies: Define rules to automatically transition objects to Glacier or delete them based on predefined criteria.
  • Azure
    • Azure Blob Storage: A scalable and secure object storage solution.
    • Azure Storage Lifecycle Management: Allows you to automate data retention and deletion based on policies.

When selecting a data retention and archiving solution, nonprofits should consider factors such as the types of data they need to archive, compliance requirements, ease of use, scalability, and integration capabilities with existing systems. Additionally, it's important to define and adhere to a clear data retention policy to ensure that archived data is retained for the required period and then appropriately disposed of when no longer needed.

Archiving Data

Archiving involves removing data from production environments and storing it elsewhere for historical purposes. It is essential to establish retention periods to determine how long data should be archived.

When selecting a tool for archiving historical data, nonprofits should consider factors such as the type and format of data, scalability, long-term preservation features, ease of use, and adherence to archival standards. Additionally, it's important to define and follow best practices for metadata creation and documentation to ensure the context and authenticity of archived historical data.

Data Destruction

Secure and proper data destruction is crucial for nonprofits to protect sensitive information and comply with privacy regulations. 

Data destruction, also known as purging, involves removing data from archives for compliance, privacy, or cost reasons. Regularly reviewing and updating retention policies is crucial to adapt to changing requirements.

When using data destruction tools, nonprofits should follow best practices to ensure complete and irreversible data removal. It's important to consider the type of storage media being used, the sensitivity of the data, and any specific regulatory requirements. Additionally, documenting the data destruction process and keeping records of the actions taken can be crucial for compliance and audit purposes. In some cases, physical destruction of storage devices may also be necessary, especially for hard drives and other media that cannot be securely erased using software alone.

In conclusion, sustaining effective data governance requires a holistic approach that integrates robust tools and technologies with well-defined processes and staff training. Emphasizing identity and access management, monitoring and auditing, and data archiving and destruction, organizations can fortify their frameworks to navigate the complexities of modern data ecosystems. Whether managing data in Excel or orchestrating complex data warehouses with API pipelines, the principles highlighted in this blog post provide valuable insights and considerations for adopting a comprehensive approach to ensure the long-term success of data governance initiatives.

We'll be sharing more posts each month to support you with your Data Management and Reporting questions! Sign-up for our newsletter to receive the next post in your inbox!

Let’s work together!

Most nonprofits spend days putting together reports for board meetings and funders. The Inciter team brings together data from many sources to create easy and effortless reports. Our clients go from spending days on their reports, to just minutes.