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All in the Data: A Holistic Approach to Govern Data

Robert S. Seiner, KIK Consulting & Educational Services

The concept of being holistic embraces a comprehensive and interconnected view of various aspects of life, considering them as a whole rather than isolated parts. The concept of being holistic emphasizes the understanding that everything in our existence is connected and interdependent, influencing and being influenced by one another. Holistic approaches look to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of an individual or a system, recognizing the intricate connections between these elements. 

An easy way to explain the term holistic is to consider the “Tree of Life,” which represents the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life on Earth. It is often seen as a metaphor for the cycle of life, growth and renewal. The tree’s roots represent the foundation and connection to the earth, while its branches reach out and extend into the sky, representing aspiration and spiritual growth. 

Another example of interconnectedness is holistic medicine, sometimes referred to as holistic health or alternative medicine. Holistic medicine is an approach to healthcare that considers the whole person—body, mind, emotions and spirit—rather than just focusing on individual symptoms or specific diseases. It recognizes the interconnectedness of various aspects of a person’s health and seeks to address the underlying causes of illness and promote overall well-being. 

Organizations that follow the Non-Invasive Data Governance approach to managing and governing organizational data assets emphasize collaboration, transparency and minimal disruption to existing processes. Unlike the traditional model of “if you build it, they will come,” and the command-and-control models of “you WILL do this,” the non-invasive data governance approach focuses on enabling and empowering data stakeholders across the organization to participate in data management activities. It promotes the use of lightweight and flexible governance structures and frameworks that align with the organization’s culture and goals.

In non-invasive data governance, the emphasis is on establishing clear accountability, continuous communication channels and suitable decision-making processes without imposing rigid control mechanisms. It aims to foster a culture of formalized accountability through data stewardship and data awareness by engaging stakeholders from different business units and functional areas. Non-invasive data governance encourages the adoption of practical data management practices, data quality improvement initiatives, and the establishment of data policies and guidelines that are transparent, user-friendly and easily accessible. The focus is on leveraging existing processes and technologies to ensure that data is managed effectively, without creating unnecessary barriers or disruptions to day-to-day operations.

The holistic and non-invasive approaches share several similarities, particularly in their underlying principles. Here are some similarities between the two using holistic medicine and non-invasive data governance in the comparison:

Whole Systems Perspective: Both holistic and non-invasive approaches adopt an all-inclusive or whole-systems perspective. They recognize that the various components within their respective domains are interconnected and influence each other. In holistic medicine, the focus is on the interconnectedness of the body, mind, emotions and spirit, while in non-invasive data governance, the focus is on the interconnectedness of data assets, processes, policies and stakeholders within an organization.

Prevention-Oriented Approach: Both holistic and non-invasive approaches prioritize prevention rather than simply treating symptoms or addressing issues reactively. In holistic medicine, the emphasis is on promoting overall health and well-being through lifestyle changes, stress reduction and other preventive measures. Similarly, non-invasive data governance aims to prevent data quality issues, security breaches and compliance violations by establishing proactive policies, controls, and repeatable data management practices.

Individual Focus: Both holistic and non-invasive approaches recognize the importance of personalization and customization. In holistic medicine, treatments and interventions are tailored to meet the unique needs, circumstances and preferences of each individual. Similarly, non-invasive data governance acknowledges that different organizations have different data management requirements, and it promotes the adoption of customized data governance approaches to suit their specific needs, goals and regulatory environments.

Integration and Collaboration: Both the holistic and non-invasive approaches promote integration and collaboration. In holistic medicine, various healthcare approaches, such as conventional medicine, complementary therapies, and lifestyle interventions, are integrated to provide comprehensive and well-rounded care. Similarly, non-invasive data governance encourages the integration of data governance and data management practices, policies and processes across different departments and stakeholders within an organization. It emphasizes collaboration and cooperation to ensure consistent and coordinated data governance efforts.

Continuous Improvement: Both holistic and non-invasive approaches emphasize the importance of continuous improvement. In holistic medicine, individuals are encouraged to engage in lifelong learning, self-reflection and exploration of different modalities to optimize their health and well-being continuously. Likewise, non-invasive data governance is an ongoing process that involves continuous monitoring, assessment and improvement of data management practices, policies and controls to adapt to changing organizational needs and evolving data landscapes.

While following a holistic approach can bring many benefits, it is important to acknowledge that there can be potential drawbacks or challenges associated with it as well. One potential negative consequence is the risk of oversimplification or generalization. When you consider all of the interconnected factors of an organization, there is a possibility of overlooking the specific nuances and complexities within each individual aspect. This can lead to oversimplifying solutions or making assumptions that may not be accurate or effective. 

Additionally, a holistic approach might require a significant investment of time, effort and resources to gather and integrate data and information from various sources. This can sometimes be overwhelming or impractical in certain situations where a more focused or specialized approach might be more appropriate. It’s crucial to strike a balance and recognize that while a holistic perspective can be valuable, it may not always be the most suitable or efficient approach for every circumstance.

While holistic medicine primarily focuses on healthcare and well-being, and non-invasive data governance pertains to the health and well-being of data assets, they share common principles of a holistic approach, prevention, integration and continuous improvement. By recognizing these similarities, organizations can adopt a more comprehensive and human-centric approach to data governance, taking inspiration from the principles and practices of holistic medicine. It’s all in the data.