At NCDM: Big Data or big problem? Doing data governance correctly

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Orlando, Fla.—As marketing data sets continue to grow while remaining fragmented across many organizations, data governance has become one of industry's most serious challenges, according to a panel discussion here last week at the Direct Marketing Association's National Center for Database Marketing conference and expo. “There is a growing awareness of the need for data governance, but there's a continuing challenge about who owns the data and all the various siloes in which it's contained,” said Bruce Biegel, senior management director at consultancy Winterberry Group. “And since the advances in marketing technology are outpacing the talent available, what you can do with data governance is far ahead of what you are doing. The risks of accidents are starting to increase.” Biegel made special note that various segments of data often are housed and managed by multiple third-party service providers, “and they're not talking to each other,” he said. “For these companies to have a point person within the company to talk to is critical.” Taking care of increasingly massive sets of data entails protecting an essential company asset as well as ensuring against data damage and loss, scams and crime, and the loss of customer information and trust, among other imperatives, the panelists said. “It is essential that organizations unify their data in order to govern it,” said JoAnne Dunne, CEO of data segmentation company Alliant Data. “Digital data is in its own silo; direct marketing data has its own location, and so do bricks-and-mortar operations. Companies must make the data structure holistic.” Dunne recommended that companies create a data governance task force that includes privacy and compliance officers as well as legal counsel, IT, marketing, sales and human resources. The future of data governance may reside largely in Washington, D.C., panelists said, as Congress is considering multiple pieces of legislation that would regulate online behavioral tracking for advertising purposes as well as the control and use of customer data. “Marketers are possibly facing the end of the data-driven way of life as we know it,” said Rachel Thomas, DMA's VP-government affairs. “There is the view that any company that collects, aggregates, analyzes or shares customer information is potentially suspect. A primary belief behind this is that marketers aren't capable of acting as responsible stewards of data.” DMA and other marketing organizations are lobbying against government regulation of marketing data, arguing that the industry can regulate itself. “If we don't get all these issues right, we'll lose the ability to self-regulate,” said Peg Kuman, CEO at data management company Relevate. “Then, data will become too expensive and marketers won't get any value out of it.”
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