Do you know the differences between data governance and data management? Learn more about the terms and their definitions in this handy guide.

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One of the defining features of a successful business is how well its leaders understand and use data to generate value for their employees and customers. With the unprecedented amount of data that is becoming available to businesses, it’s important for them to use as much of this data as possible to gain a competitive advantage.

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When it comes to optimizing data for business use, some data terms and functions are used somewhat interchangeably. Data management and data governance are examples of this, though the two data strategies serve distinct business goals. In this article, we highlight the meaning of these terms, their importance, and some of their key similarities and differences.

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What is data management?

Data management is the practice of gathering, organizing, protecting, sharing and storing data so it can be analyzed for business decisions. It helps improve data scalability, visibility, security and reliability. With the vast quantity of data available to organizations, it has become essential for organizations to use data management to generate maximum value from the data available to them.

Although data management is typically thought of as an IT department’s responsibility, all business users play a key role in data quality efforts when they follow data management policies and procedures.

One of the primary benefits of a well-designed data management system is that it eliminates siloed subsystems in an organization and allows for better data flow across business units. This helps the overall operational efficiency of the organization and allows for more agile decision-making.

Data management is a sweeping concept in data strategy that covers several more specialized data practices, including data architecture, data modeling, security, data governance, data catalogs and more. Data management solutions are designed to manage increased data volume, offer analytics tools and meet compliance requirements.

What is data governance?

Data governance is a discipline of data management. It ensures that data is high quality by making it secure, available, usable and consistent. One of the primary goals of data governance is to create harmony between data across various business units. Another goal is to ensure data is used properly through the implementation of data governance policies and procedures.

IT departments that are held responsible for data management are usually responsible for focused data governance efforts by default. Similar to data management as a whole, data governance is not the sole responsibility of the IT department. An organization can have different individuals or teams play the role of data stewards in their organizational structure.

While data governance requires stakeholders from different business units, an organization should still consider having dedicated teams and individuals with ultimate responsibility over data governance initiatives. Some companies have a chief data officer, a data governance manager, data stewards, or a data governance committee to lead data governance policies and practices.

SEE: Job description: Chief data officer (TechRepublic Premium)

New regulatory compliance requirements, particularly related to data privacy requirements, are a big reason why data governance has become increasingly important to organizations.

How is data governance different from data management?

The key difference between data governance and data management is that data governance is a specialization that falls under the data management umbrella. Data governance helps define the procedures and policies for how data will be used and stored. Data management is the overarching framework in which these policies and procedures are executed and implemented alongside other important data initiatives.

Another key difference between these two terms is data management is often controlled by technology and having the right data management toolset in place. Although data governance relies somewhat on the tools that data professionals use, successful data governance focuses more heavily on strategy and planning.

Do data governance and data management ever work together?

Not only can data governance and data management work together, but they must be used together to derive the most valuable business insights from data. For an organization to have a successful data management system, it must also have proper data governance policies and procedures in place to guide data decisions and usage.

Both data governance and data management are essential components of organizational data strategy. For these two functions to work together, it’s important for leaders to build a company culture in which stakeholders understand and value the power of accurate, ethical data.

Data governance can be thought of as the blueprint to build a building, while data management is the construction of that building. The complete data management lifecycle is what helps drive business outcomes for the organization.

Data governance tools are an important piece of an organization’s data management tech stack. Learn about the top data governance tools here.