Skip to main content

What Is a Data Governance Policy & How to Write One

by Chris Brook on Monday January 8, 2024

Contact Us
Free Demo

Having a strong data governance policy can help your organization ensure data accuracy, consistency, and security across your organization but what are the first steps to writing one?

In this age of stringent compliance, in which such a high premium is placed on privacy and data protection, organizations need to document how they use, control, and manage their data. 

Writing a data governance policy involves outlining the rules and procedures for how data is handled to maintain accuracy, integrity, and safety while resolving issues when they arise. 

What Is a Data Governance Policy?

A data governance policy is a set of guidelines and standards for managing, handling, and protecting an organization's data. It's designed to ensure data accuracy, consistency, and security across all areas of an organization. 


This policy usually outlines the data collection, storage, processing, and disposal protocols. It also defines the roles and responsibilities of various personnel in handling the data. Furthermore, the policy aims to improve data quality, boost data security, ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, and enhance the overall decision-making process.


Ensuring your data is properly classified and labeled according to its type, sensitivity, and business value, can greatly enhance the the application of data governance policies and result in improved data security and accessibility as well.

What Are the Purpose and Benefits of Data Governance Policies?

The purpose of data governance policies is to establish a consistent and reliable framework for managing and utilizing data within an organization. Data governance makes sure that all data-related activities are standardized and regulated, therefore improving the effectiveness of data usage and business operations.



Specific Purposes of Data Governance Policies

  • Ensuring data quality and accuracy: With a centralized policy, organizations can maintain the quality, consistency, and accuracy of their data for better decision-making.
  • Providing clear roles and responsibilities: These policies clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities related to data management. This aids in minimizing confusion and data mishandling.
  • Guaranteeing compliance: Organizations must adhere to various legal and regulatory requirements for data handling. Data governance policies help ensure that these requirements are met, thereby avoiding legal issues.
  • Safeguarding data: Policies protect sensitive data against unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. This helps in preserving data privacy and preventing potential business risks.

What are the Essential Components of a Data Governance Policy?

Policy Purpose and Scope

The policy should outline why it's being implemented and the areas it will cover within the organization. The policy purpose provides an overview of why data governance is important and necessary.

Data Governance Structure

The policy must clearly define the roles and responsibilities of individuals or groups involved in the data governance program. This includes data owners, stewards, and custodians and their specific tasks in maintaining data quality, security, and privacy.

Data Access and Usage Rules

The policy must clearly define who has access to specific types of data, how they can use it, and any restrictions on their usage. Clear rules should be in place for data sharing and dissemination as well.

Data Quality Standards

The policy should set clear standards for data quality, including accuracy, consistency, completeness, and reliability. It might also include procedures for data validation and cleanup.

Data Security and Privacy Guidelines

The policy must address how the organization will protect sensitive data from security breaches and inappropriate use. This includes requirements for data encryption, anonymization, and data access controls.

Compliance with Regulatory Requirements

The policy should reflect compliance requirements under laws like GDPR, CCPA, etc. Any future regulatory changes should also be accounted for in the policy's scope.

Review and Audit Procedures

The policy must include procedures for regular reviews and audits to check compliance with the data governance policy and the effectiveness of existing practices.

Procedure for Policy Violations

The policy should outline the repercussions for violations, ranging from warnings and retraining to termination and even legal action for serious breaches.

Training and Awareness

The policy should stipulate the necessity of training to ensure all staff members understand and comply with the policy. 

Who Should be Involved in the Data Governance Policy Process?

Creating a data governance policy should be a collaborative process involving representatives from various departments within the organization. Here are a few key roles that should be involved:

  • Executive Sponsor: High-ranking management team member who champions the cause of data governance to the rest of the organization and can make high-level decisions related to it.
  • Data Governance Manager or Chief Data Officer (CDO): The person responsible for daily creating, implementing, and managing the data governance policy.
  • IT Managers: The IT department plays an important role in the technical aspects of implementing data governance managing data storage, security, and data access controls.
  • Data Stewards: These are individuals from different functional areas who understand the data from their area of expertise and work to ensure the quality, consistency, and security of this data.
  • Legal, Compliance, and Risk Teams: These specialists ensure that all data usage complies with laws and regulations and does not expose the company to unnecessary risk.
  • Business Managers/Process Owners: These people rely on data for their daily work and can provide vital insight into how data is used and what needs they may have.
  • Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics Teams: They will use the organization's data for their activities and can provide insights into how to best structure data for reporting and analysis purposes.
  • Security and Privacy Officers: These officers can provide expertise to ensure the data governance policy aligns with the organization’s security and privacy strategies.

These roles can vary from organization to organization and the company's size. Small to medium businesses typically have one person handling several roles.

How Do You Write a Data Governance Policy Document?

Writing a Data Governance Policy Document involves several steps, including planning, drafting, reviewing, and revising. Here are the steps you can follow:

  • Planning: Define the scope and goals of the policy. Understand which data is being governed, the associated risks, and the expected benefits of implementing the policy.
  • Identify Stakeholders: Engagement from all levels of the organization is crucial. It is important to identify and involve key stakeholders, including senior management, business unit leaders, legal and compliance departments, data owners, and IT staff.
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly outline who is responsible for what in terms of governance. Typical responsibilities include the data owner, data steward, and data custodian. 
  • Set Standards and Procedures: Determine how data will be handled across its lifecycle. This includes data capture, storage, maintenance, use, and disposal. This should also include safeguarding data, ensuring data quality, upholding data privacy, and complying with pertinent legal and regulatory frameworks.
  • Draft the Document: After gathering all the necessary information, you can draft the data governance policy document. Start with an introduction or overview, then elaborate on each point in your planning.
  • Review and Revise: Once the initial draft is complete, circle back to your stakeholders for review and input. You may need to revise the document several times before it meets the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.
  • Implement: Once the policy is finalized, plan a phased rollout with necessary employee training. 
  • Regular Review and Update: Regularly review and update the policy document to reflect changes in the business environment, regulatory landscape, and evolving data-related needs and challenges.

What are the Fundamentals for Creating and Implementing Effective Data Governance Policies?

  • Establish a Data Governance Framework: This is the foundation of a data governance policy and involves step-by-step procedures on how data is collected, stored, secured, maintained, and used. The framework should be flexible to changes in your organization’s goals and the evolving data landscape.
  • Form a Data Governance Committee: The committee includes representatives from all departments in the organization. A successful committee should possess strong leadership skills and an understanding of data management and its importance to the organization’s success.
  • Define Clear Goals and Objectives: Without clear goals, ensuring your policy is solving the right issues is hard. Goals could include improving data quality, ensuring data privacy, or meeting regulatory compliance.
  • Create Data Governance Roles and Responsibilities: Delineate who is responsible for what when it comes to data governance. This includes data owners, stewards, and custodians.
  • Set Data Access Controls: Define who can access what data and when. Specify different levels of access for different roles within the organization.
  • Develop a Data Security Policy: Data breaches are a serious matter and threaten the integrity of your data and trust with customers. Set up security protocols, including how data is protected and how breaches are dealt with.
  • Regularly Monitor, Audit, and Update Your Data Governance Policy: Regular checks ensure that the policy is being followed and remains effective. It also identifies areas that may need improvement.
  • Training and Education: Regular training sessions ensure that every employee understands the data governance policy and the importance of adhering to it.
  • Use a Data Governance Tool: Implementing data governance can be complex. There are many tools available that can help streamline this process.
  • Make Updated Policies Easily Accessible: Ensure every team member has easy access to the most recent data governance policies.

Learn How Digital Guardian Can Help with Your Data Governance Policies

In addition to data loss prevention, Digital Guardian deals with issues central to achieving robust data governance, such as compliance, data classification, and discovery.

Schedule a demo with us today to learn how we can help you with your comprehensive data governance policy.

Tags:  Data Protection

Chris Brook

Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Digital Guardian’s Data Insider blog. He is a cybersecurity writer with nearly 15 years of experience reporting and writing about information security, attending infosec conferences like Black Hat and RSA, and interviewing hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian–acquired by Fortra in 2021–he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site that was a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.

Recommended Resources

The Definitive Guide to Data Loss Prevention
The Definitive Guide to Data Loss Prevention

All the essential information you need about DLP in one eBook.

6 Cybersecurity Thought Leaders on Data Protection
6 Cybersecurity Thought Leaders on Data Protection

Expert views on the challenges of today & tomorrow.

Digital Guardian Technical Overview
Digital Guardian Technical Overview

The details on our platform architecture, how it works, and your deployment options.

Get the latest security insights
delivered to your inbox each week.