Practical Information for Small Businesses to Govern Data Effectively

Picture this: You’re a small business owner who has just lost a lucrative contract. The reason? Your competitor, who prioritizes data governance, was able to provide more precise forecasts and demonstrate a superior understanding of market trends.

This isn’t a hypothetical situation. In reality, a study by Alation discovered that 97% of data leaders stated their companies have experienced the repercussions of disregarding data, such as missing out on new revenue opportunities, inaccurate performance forecasting, or making poor investments.

Data governance isn’t solely about compliance or avoiding penalties. It’s about leveraging the power of data to propel your business. It’s about ensuring your data’s security, availability, and integrity. And, it’s about making informed decisions that can elevate your business.

So, while you might believe that data governance is only for large corporations, bear in mind that startups and small businesses are often at the forefront of data-driven innovation. In today’s data-centric world, can your business afford to lag behind?

Data: The Untapped Resource for Small Businesses

Data is no longer just a byproduct of business operations; it’s the fuel that propels growth and innovation. For small businesses, this presents a unique opportunity that can make you stand apart from other businesses who don’t see this fuel as an asset – to unlock the hidden potential within your own data and gain a significant edge over your competitors.

The ability to make informed decisions that leads to increased sales, anticipating customer needs before they even arise, and identifying cost-saving opportunities you never knew existed are some of the ways you can leverage this strength. 

Here are some of the ways your own data can be used to transform your small business:

  • Drive informed decision-making: Analyze customer demographics, track marketing campaign performance, and monitor key financial metrics to make strategic decisions based on real-time insights, not just gut feelings.
  • Enhance customer engagement: personalize marketing campaigns, provide targeted recommendations, and offer superior customer service tailored to individual needs. Data helps you build stronger relationships and foster customer loyalty.
  • Optimize operational efficiency: Identify areas for improvement, streamline processes, and allocate resources effectively. Data helps you work smarter, not harder, and get more done with less.
  • Generate new revenue streams: Discover new customer segments, develop innovative products and services, and uncover untapped market opportunities. Data opens doors to previously unseen sources of revenue.

The real-world benefits are undeniable:

  • A local bakery analyzed customer purchase data and identified a new market for gluten-free pastries. This resulted in a 20% increase in revenue within just six months.
  • A clothing boutique used social media data to identify trending styles and optimize their inventory. This led to a 30% reduction in unsold merchandise and a significant increase in profits.
  • A landscaping company implemented a data-driven approach to route planning, optimizing fuel consumption by 15% and saving thousands of dollars annually.

These are just a few examples of how small businesses are leveraging data to achieve remarkable results. However, the potential risks associated with poor data governance cannot be ignored.

Demystifying Data Governance: A Simple Guide for Small Businesses:

Data governance might sound like a complex concept reserved for large corporations, but its benefits are equally powerful for small businesses. In essence, data governance is all about managing your data effectively, just like you would manage any other valuable asset. It’s about taking control of your information, ensuring its accuracy, security, and compliance with regulations.

Think of it like organizing your home office. You wouldn’t let important documents pile up in disarray, risking loss, damage, or misuse. Data governance works in the same way, ensuring your digital information is organized, accessible, and protected.

Three Goals of Data Lifecycle Management

Increased Data Control and Ownership:

Data is your business’s intellectual property, and data governance empowers you to take control. You can determine who has access to what information, who can make changes, and how data is used. This ensures your data remains confidential and is only used for authorized purposes.

Improved Data Security and Compliance:

Data breaches and regulatory compliance issues can be devastating for small businesses. Data governance helps you implement robust security measures to protect your sensitive information from unauthorized access and use. It also ensures you comply with data privacy regulations, minimizing the risk of fines and penalties.

Enhanced Data Quality and Accuracy:

Inaccurate or incomplete data can lead to poor decision-making and missed opportunities. Data governance helps you maintain data quality by establishing clear standards for data collection, storage, and maintenance. This ensures you have reliable information you can trust to make informed choices.

But data governance isn’t just about storing information; it’s about managing its entire lifecycle. Data lifecycle management (DLM) ensures your data is created, used, stored, archived, and disposed of responsibly and in accordance with your business needs. DLM helps you:

  • Identify and classify important information.
  • Define retention periods for different types of data.
  • Securely archive or dispose of data when it’s no longer needed.
  • Optimize storage costs by eliminating unnecessary data.

Building a Data Governance Framework for Your Small Business

Now that you understand the power of data governance and its benefits for small businesses, it’s time to take action. Implementing a data governance framework might seem daunting, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some actionable steps you can follow, inspired by Microsoft Purview’s Data Lifecycle Management (DLM) framework:

1. Conduct a Data Audit:

The first step is to get a clear picture of your current data landscape. Identify all the data your business collects, stores, and uses. Analyze its sources, formats, and locations. This audit will provide valuable insights for developing your data governance strategy.

2. Identify and Categorize Key Data Assets:

Not all data is created equal. Identify your critical data assets – information that’s essential for your business operations or holds significant value. Categorize your data based on its sensitivity, importance, and regulatory requirements.

3. Develop Clear Data Ownership and Access Control Policies:

Define who owns different types of data within your organization. Establish clear rules for access and usage, ensuring only authorized personnel have access to sensitive information. Implement role-based access controls to ensure data is only used for its intended purpose.

4. Implement Data Quality and Security Measures:

Take steps to ensure the accuracy and integrity of your data. Implement data validation processes and standardize data formats. Put robust security measures in place to protect your data from unauthorized access, loss, and misuse. Consider encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems.

5. Leverage Cloud-Based Solutions for Scalability and Cost-Effectiveness:

Cloud-based data governance solutions offer several advantages for small businesses. They are scalable, cost-effective, and provide access to advanced features and functionalities. Platforms like Microsoft Purview offer comprehensive DLM capabilities, including data classification, retention policies, access controls, and security monitoring.

6. Train Employees on Data Governance Best Practices:

Data governance is not just a technical matter; it’s a cultural shift. Train your employees on data governance principles and best practices. Educate them on data security protocols, responsible data usage, and their role in maintaining data integrity.

Remember, data governance is an ongoing process, not a one-time project. Continuously monitor and adapt your data governance framework as your business grows and evolves.

Data Retention Policies for Small Businesses

Data retention is a crucial aspect of data governance. It involves keeping records for set periods to comply with business needs, industry guidelines, and regulations. Here are some steps to create a data retention policy for your small business:

  1. Understand how retention and deletion work: Before you start, it’s essential to understand how data retention and deletion work in your organization’s software. This includes knowing how long data is kept, how it’s archived, and how it’s eventually deleted.
  2. Identify workloads that need a retention policy: Not all data is created equal. Some data might be more critical to your business and thus require a different retention policy. Identify these workloads early on.
  3. Create retention policies: Once you’ve identified the workloads, create retention policies for them. These policies should specify retention settings and actions that align with your organization’s policies or industry regulations.
  4. Use retention labels for exceptions: If there are exceptions to your retention policies, create and apply retention labels for these exceptions. This will ensure that these data sets are handled correctly.
  5. Enable mailbox archiving: If you’re using an email service like Microsoft 365, enable mailbox archiving. This provides users with additional mailbox storage space and helps manage email data more effectively.
  6. Support archive mailboxes: If your mailboxes require more than 100 GB storage, enable auto-expanding archiving. This feature automatically provides additional storage space when needed.
  7. Use retention tags for customization: If you need to customize how emails are moved from a user’s primary mailbox to their archive mailbox, or if you need to specify retention and deletion settings for specific folders, use retention tags.
  8. Manage inactive mailboxes: When employees leave the organization, their mailboxes become inactive. Understand how to manage these inactive mailboxes to ensure that their content is retained as per your policy.
  9. Import PST files: If you have PST files that contain data you want to govern, import these files to online mailboxes. This can be done using network upload or drive shipping.

Remember, a robust data retention policy is not just about compliance; it’s about effectively managing your data to drive your business forward.

Measuring the Impact of Data Governance

To measure the effectiveness of your data governance strategy, it’s crucial to establish metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Here are some specific actions you can take:

  1. Increased Data Quality Scores: Implement a data quality management tool that can provide a data quality score. This score is typically based on factors like accuracy, completeness, consistency, and timeliness. Track this score over time to measure improvements in your data quality. For example, you could use tools like Ataccama ONE or Data Ladder, which are known for their data quality management capabilities.
  2. Reduced Data Security Incidents: Keep a record of data security incidents, including data breaches and unauthorized data access. A decrease in these incidents over time can indicate the effectiveness of your data governance in enhancing data security. You can maintain a record in a secure database or a spreadsheet, documenting the date, time, nature of the incident, and remedial actions taken.
  3. Improved Decision-Making Outcomes: Track the outcomes of business decisions made based on your data. This could include increased sales from a marketing campaign or improved efficiency in your supply chain. If decisions made using governed data lead to better outcomes, it’s a good indication that your data governance is working.
  4. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: Use customer satisfaction surveys to gauge how your customers feel about their interactions with your business. If data governance leads to more personalized customer experiences or quicker response times, you should see an increase in customer satisfaction scores.
  5. Increased Operational Efficiency: Monitor operational efficiency metrics, such as the time taken to complete certain processes or tasks. If these metrics improve after implementing data governance, it’s a sign that your data governance is helping to streamline your operations.

Data governance is all about managing your data effectively, just like you would manage any other valuable asset


The goal of these metrics and KPIs is not just to track progress, but to provide insights that can help you continuously refine and improve your data governance strategy.

Data governance is not just about compliance or risk management. It’s a powerful lever that small businesses can use to unlock their full potential and carve out a competitive edge. It enables businesses to harness the true power of their data, leading to informed decision-making, enhanced operational efficiency, and ultimately, business growth.

Data governance isn’t just a good-to-have for small businesses. It’s a must-have for any business that aims to thrive in the long run. It’s the key to turning data from an overwhelming challenge into a powerful ally. And with the right approach, every small business can make this transformation.

Related articles

Sign up for FundCount Highlights

Keep your business on trend with what is new in the FinTech industry and FundCount
Get our monthly digest!
© 2023 FundCount • All rights reserved • Terms of usePrivacy PolicyAccessibility Feedback