Originally published on CIO.com.

It has long been believed that the only way to successfully govern a business intelligence (BI) deployment is through rigorous process, tight controls, and restricted access to data and reporting solutions. Organizations think that if the rules are written and enforced by a small, centralized group of individuals residing in IT, the risk of misuse can be mitigated.

Unfortunately, this rigid approach to governance only serves to restrict business users who have the necessary business context and are in the best position to discover and translate data into insights and action. As a result, “shadow IT” organizations often emerge, driving mission-critical business activities based on unapproved data, with unsanctioned processes, unsupported tools, and no organizational support. This exposes the organization to significant risk. Specifically, the risk of making bad decisions, as well as the potential for inadvertently compromising data assets, increases dramatically when IT is circumvented because of an overly restrictive approach to governance. But there is a better way.

BI leaders have an opportunity to rethink their approach and relaunch governance initiatives focused on encouraging and enabling broad use of data, while simultaneously mitigating risk. For many organizations, this notion represents a sea change that will likely seem counter-intuitive to existing governance practices, and will require significant changes in the way IT thinks and talks about governance with stakeholders. The Harvard Business Review recently published "What's Your Data Strategy?" and outlined the idea of "offensive" and "defensive" data strategies. This means addressing IT's requirement for data security and the business's requirement of creating value from data. As you'll see below, modern analytics platforms let you do both: Keep your data safe and use data to its full potential.

Organizations that successfully navigate this transition from a culture of restriction to a culture of empowerment will begin to see 5 key benefits:

1. Broader adoption for better decision-making

The value of an organization’s data can only be harnessed when its people are empowered to explore, discover, and analyze it in search of key insights. A governance model that is designed to promote broader adoption and quickly ramp up new users in a safe and responsible way is required to achieve this goal.

The impact is exponentially greater when business users, often with limited technical skills, are empowered to ask and answer their own questions of data that they know, understand, and trust. These users have the necessary business context and ability to turn insights into action. Take REI, for instance, whose analyst Tim Letona is creating a model for better understanding project-related costs and timecards.

2. Higher confidence in the outcome

This transition requires users to become active participants in the governance process that supports an organization’s analytic initiatives. When users are more empowered and feel personally invested, governance goes from being a topic that no business user ever wants to talk about to something for which everyone feels personally responsible.

As users grow more confident in their findings, they are more inclined to share and collaborate with others, which feeds momentum and broader adoption. This newfound power and confidence is the key to scaling data-driven decision-making across the organization. Learn how to encourage everyone to become part of the discovery process and build a culture of self-service analytics in your own organization.

3. Eliminate “shadow IT”

“Shadow IT” organizations are the result of inflexible, restricted governance policies, and can lead to unsanctioned and untrustworthy analytics. But they can quickly become irrelevant in a BI governance model built on a foundation of empowerment through true self-service.

The clear benefit for users is that eliminating the need for “shadow IT” means that they can invest fully in a sanctioned and trusted environment to support their business process and no longer need to sacrifice safety for agility.

4. A more strategic IT team

When the mandate of a BI governance initiative is to restrict access, IT resources spend a disproportionate amount of their valuable time defining and enforcing rules. By adopting a governance strategy which encourages broad use, and shifts the burden of self-regulation to the users of the environment, IT can assume a more strategic role in supporting BI initiatives.

This change in mindset creates opportunities for IT to move closer to the business processes that they are charged with supporting. With increased bandwidth, IT can focus on R&D and innovation, and bring to light new data sources as well as new tools and techniques that enhance the value of BI to the organization. Find out how Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics, Jeff Strauss, is keeps constant tabs on Conversant Media’s R&D IT initiatives.

5. Trusted security by reducing risk

Organizations that embrace a restrictive approach to governance often have a false sense of security when it comes to how data and analytics are being used. If users and “shadow IT” groups are using data curated by IT as a source to feed downstream processes and analyses outside the purview of IT, the degree to which it can be considered safe and trusted deteriorates considerably. If users have faith in the governance process and trust that the rules reflect an understanding of the needs of the business and the inherent need for agility, they are far more likely to play by the rules and avoid taking these unnecessary risks.

With business intelligence and analytics platform modernization on the minds of many organizations, the time is right to adopt a governance model that is designed to empower users to self-serve responsibly and maximize the reach and impact of analytics.

Learn more

To take advantage of Tableau in your IT organization, check out these materials:

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