Data governance in the spotlight as UK firms ramp up AI adoption

Data governance team members having an impromptu meeting in an open plan office space.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

UK businesses are increasingly waking up to the importance of data governance, according to Experian, but many are having trouble putting principles into practice.

More than eight-in-ten British businesses agreed that data governance should no longer be an afterthought, and that it could give them a strategic advantage. A further 86% agreed that data governance will become more important over the next five years.

With AI changing the way businesses are run and being seen as a key differentiator, nearly three-quarters told researchers that data governance is the cornerstone to better AI.

"In a world where everything is increasingly based on data, the importance of data management is crucial," said Andrew Abraham, global managing director, data quality, at Experian.

"The research shows that British businesses understand that and, by leveraging data effectively, they can gain the competitive edge and ability to deliver better services as well as ensure they remain fully compliant and secure."

The research found that nearly eight-in-ten organizations currently have a senior executive who oversees their data governance program, and 69% have a specific data governance team. More than half had other representatives from business operations or a steering committee involved in data governance.

Almost three-quarters are managing data governance in-house, and 84% have a specific data governance budget, with more than a third expecting it to increase in the next 12 months.

Implementation of data governance policies are a significant challenge 

However, respondents cited difficulties in integration and scalability, as well as poor data quality, saying this made it harder to manage data effectively and responsibly through its lifecycle. 

Similarly, the study found the three most common barriers to good data governance are having to embed data governance into existing ways of working and processes, cited by 72%; improving data quality and scalability, cited by 71%; and ensuring it keeps pace with existing technology and business models, an issue for 71%.

As a result, only 15% of organizations think their data governance efforts are fully meeting expectations and delivering the outcomes they need, while 22% see considerable scope for improvement.

Experian advised businesses to make sure they have appropriate talent to ensure a smooth implementation process. The most successful businesses, the study found, often set up a cross-departmental data governance council to identify, prioritize, and execute data-based projects.


Meanwhile, data governance investments should be chosen wisely. Almost every business surveyed said it planned to invest in its data governance approaches over the next two years. This includes investing in high quality technologies and tools and improving data literacy and skills internally.

Finally, data governance approaches and policies should be reviewed regularly, with the data governance team meeting at least once a month to discuss key items.

"While data management is crucial, a one-size-fits-all approach won't work," Abraham said.

"Businesses need to develop data governance strategies using flexible tools that align with their own unique opportunities, risks and regulations to unlock the true potential of their data."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.