Mind the data governance-innovation gap: New research finds CDOs prioritise data security reporting structures

By Yogesh Hirdaramani

GovInsider speaks to Chong Yang Chan, Regional Director of Qlik ASEAN, to learn why organisations are prioritising data governance over innovation, and how agencies can walk this tightrope better.

Organisations should not view data governance and innovation as a binary. Image: Canva

Chief data officers have been increasingly prioritising data governance over innovation, a recent survey of over 300 senior public sector data professionals across India, Australia and Singapore found.


More than half of data executives (55 per cent) now report to a security or compliance lead. In comparison, only 21 per cent of data professionals operated under similar reporting structures in 2021, according to the survey commissioned by Qlik, a business analytics platform, and carried out by Omdia, an independent research firm.


Respondents also expressed stronger confidence in their organisation’s data governance capabilities (77 per cent) than their analytics capabilities (63 per cent). 


GovInsider speaks to Chong Yang Chan, Regional Director of Qlik ASEAN, to understand why this trend has emerged, and how organisations can better walk the governance-innovation tightrope.

Governance playing catch-up


While “it is to be expected” that public sector organisations will prioritise data governance, too much caution can stifle innovation, highlighted the report.


More respondents (45 per cent) shared that their organisations have a clear data governance strategy in place, while only 37 per cent agreed that their organisations have a clear data strategy in place that is widely understood by employees.


With the start of the pandemic, digital transformation was put on hyperspeed to manage the challenges of working from home. From that perspective, data governance is playing catch-up,” shares Chan. 


Digital transformation has led to the creation of additional data, which in turn calls for stronger data governance in terms of how and when data can be accessed, and what the quality of data is, he says. This may have led to a situation where agencies view data as a “risk to be managed”, rather than an “opportunity to be exploited”, said the report.


“To overcome this cautiousness, CDOs need to realise and maximise the return on data and analytics,” said Geoff Thomas, Senior Vice President for APAC at Qlik, in a press release.


However, the report suggested promisingly that organisations are likely to begin pursuing both data governance and innovation in tandem in 2024. 


Respondents shared that their main priorities in the coming year will be to develop a data strategy (55 per cent) and use data for insight (54 per cent), signalling an increased focus on meeting the “twin priorities of governance and program delivery.”

Turning risks into opportunities


It is now time for public sector organisations to use their increased focus on data governance to drive stronger innovation efforts, shares Chan.


“Fundamentally, there’s no conflict between data governance and innovation… In its purest form, data governance helps organisations ensure data is available, high quality and relevant,” says Chan. These qualities are critical to driving business innovation, he explains.


Data governance runs up against innovation only when data governance departments are disconnected from the organisation’s larger goals to create value. When data governance teams translate calls for stronger governance into excessive rules and regulations, this can slow down innovation and breed aversion to risk.


This is why Chan recommends an offensive data strategy that can lead to positive outcomes while being grounded in sensible data governance policies, as opposed to a defensive strategy that emphasises data protection at all costs.


One way to do this is through data sharing and open data initiatives, which can lead to improved outcomes for stakeholders. But according to the report, only 36 per cent of organisations have established data sharing agreements and mechanisms, even though nearly all organisations (96 per cent) recognise the need for such initiatives. 

Agencies that get it right 


He highlights the positive use case of the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network, also called Stan, a data analytics platform that allows users to visualise and analyse tourism-related data to derive insights about tourism in Singapore. The platform was developed by the Singapore Tourism Board.


He explains that the network encourages tourism stakeholders, such as hotels and cruise operators, to share their data with one another through access to the Stan Data Marketplace. By sharing their data, organisations can gain access to privileged datasets to enrich their own data analysis, including a Visitor Arrivals Forecast dashboard.


This data sharing agreement is grounded by STB’s data governance framework, the Data Trust Charter, which sets out how STB protects data shared with the marketplace and ensures that such data remains relevant and accurate.


“As more businesses share data, they will also receive value from the data shared by other partners. For instance, if a hotel shares data about its customers through this marketplace, cruise operators can also take advantage of that. That’s a really innovative way in which STB is able to manage both the defensive and the offensive aspect of data management,” says Chan.


He also points to the example of NParks, which uses a greenery management system to collect data on trees remotely using sensors and artificial intelligence. The system can then use the data to alert contractors in case mature trees begin to exhibit signs of falling over. According to The Register, this has resulted in an 85 per cent decrease in the number of tree incidents.


The report recommends organisations “bake” appropriate governance measures into procedures and policies to remain agile, and ensure that data analytics and data sharing capabilities are seamless for data professionals.