5 Data Governance Examples: Case Studies from Airbnb, Uber, and More

Last Updated on: May 25th, 2023, Published on: May 25th, 2023
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Data governance goes beyond policies. It elevates trust in your data and empowers you to make better decisions, improve operational efficiency and save costs.

But what does successful data governance look like in action?

Let’s dive into five real-world data governance examples from top organizations, such as Airbnb, GE Aviation, Wells Fargo, CSE Insurance, and Uber.

Table of contents #

  1. Data governance examples: 5 case studies
  2. Data governance examples: 5 key takeaways
  3. Bottomline
  4. Related reads

Data governance examples: 5 case studies to visualize the impact of data governance #

Let’s take a closer look at five data governance examples, each showcasing how data governance can drive success and contribute toward your business outcomes:

  1. How Airbnb used data literacy to promote data-driven decision-making
  2. How GE Aviation balanced data governance with data enablement
  3. How Wells Fargo built a single source of truth to ensure proper governance
  4. How CSE Insurance transformed its data culture for better data management
  5. How Uber set up a flexible approach to data governance

Let’s explore each case study further.

How Airbnb used data literacy to promote data-driven decision-making #

At Airbnb, effective data governance encompasses data management and enhancing data literacy.

How are data literacy and data governance connected?

Data literacy is a crucial component of data governance as it supports the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data.

Organizations that do not fully understand their data, lose control of it throughout its lifecycle. Moreover, when people are fluent in the generation, use, and application of data, teams can make data-informed decisions.

Data literacy also makes them use data responsibly, which is essential for the success of any data governance program.

How did Airbnb promote data literacy?

To ensure data literacy, Airbnb has launched an in-house educational initiative called “Data University.”

The program is designed to boost data literacy across all departments, equipping employees to understand, interpret, and use data effectively in their roles.

Data University is Airbnb’s dynamic data education program, with the vision to empower every employee to make data-informed decisions.

Data literacy at Airbnb helped democratize data.

Data literacy at Airbnb helped democratize data. - Source: Medium.

The success of this initiative is reflected in the fact that 45% of Airbnb is now a WAU (weekly active user) of their internal data platform.

As a result, Airbnb could democratize data and scale decision-making, while ensuring responsible use of their data.

Also, read → How to measure data literacy

How GE Aviation balanced data governance with data enablement #

GE Aviation embarked on a mission to centralize its scattered data sources, making it more accessible and reliable for all users within the organization. They called the initiative Self-Service Data (SSD).

Self-service initiatives often fail in large enterprises for a variety of reasons. The issues boil down to a larger problem: self-service gets treated as a one-time project that gets launched, then forgotten.”

That’s why GE Aviation got started by setting up the SSD data team responsible for user enablement, tooling, data product (i.e., dashboards) deployment, and exploring new opportunities to improve processes.

Simultaneously, GE Aviation also set up a Database Admin team responsible for data governance, proper use of data, and supporting users whenever required. They ensured that all data products are well-documented, have project owners, and describe the workflow of approvers in detail.

What is the process for deploying data products at GE Aviation?

There’s a 4-step process to deploying data products (i.e., dashboards):

  1. Any user can look up and use the datasets for which they have access permissions. The datasets being used for setting up the data product must be tagged appropriately.
  2. After adhering to the compliance rules, users can create projects in a design environment to explore that data and test various data pipelines.
  3. Once the user pushes their project to production, a series of checks occur — verifying naming conventions, checking the schemas being used, ensuring proper data distribution, verifying dataset size, etc. The Database Admin and Self-Service Data teams run these checks manually.
  4. If the data product passes all checks, it is automatically pushed to the production environment.

According to Jonathan Tudor, the former Director of Data Platforms and Governance at GE Aviation:

It’s incredibly important to create and communicate common definitions and processes so that you and your user base are speaking the same language and to ensure that you use automation to enforce those definitions and processes. Otherwise, you’ll have chaos instead of outcomes.”

The approach accelerated decision-making processes and instilled a sense of data ownership among employees. This has led to improvements in safety and operational efficiency.

Read moreData governance framework examples, templates, standards, and best practices

How Wells Fargo built a single source of truth to ensure proper governance #

Wells Fargo’s data governance strategy highlights the importance of creating a single source of truth to enhance data accuracy and reliability.

Their approach was to centralize data from multiple sources to create a unified, trustworthy source that reduced discrepancies and improved consistency.

This streamlined data management and allowed for more accurate reporting and analysis, thereby enhancing decision-making across the organization.

Here’s how Prahalad Thota, the former Senior Vice President, Head of Enterprise Analytics & Data Science at Wells Fargo, describes their efforts:

We established a team that brings data together and organizes it into our Enterprise Data League. The team focuses on establishing the right governance, in terms of storage and management, for the data. The team also focuses on leveraging data for driving cutting-edge use cases.”

Wells Fargo’s data governance strategy also emphasized the importance of data visualization (using Tableau) to make data more accessible to non-technical stakeholders and improve overall data literacy.

As a result, Wells Fargo was able to ensure data consistency, accuracy, and visualization to reduce risks and foster data-driven decision-making.

Read more → How do large organizations avoid data silos

How CSE Insurance transformed its data culture for better data management #

CSE Insurance offers property and casualty insurance across the United States. Like many other insurance companies, they faced challenges in governing and managing their data.

The data was siloed across various sources, making it difficult for teams to find, access, and use the information they needed.

Moreover, basic definitions and metrics weren’t consistent, and migrating their documentation required starting everything from scratch.

To remedy these issues, CSE Insurance set up a single source of truth powered by data governance policies and procedures.

They also set up a small group of data champions to kick off their documentation initiative using a single platform to document data. The platform also helped all users get complete context with shareable data profiles and collaborate effectively.

As a result, CSE Insurance was able to transform its data culture and manage data more efficiently.

Also, read → Modern data culture

How Uber set up a flexible approach to data governance #

Uber operates in 70+ countries, each with its own data governance framework to comply with local and regional laws.

To ensure compliance across all regions, Uber uses a core platform to take care of data privacy and security centrally. Uber collects data globally but adapts its governance policies depending on the origins of each dataset by using customizations and plugins.

Here’s how Manikandan Thangarathnam, the Senior Director of Mobility and Platforms at Uber, puts it:

For example, a city or a country may have a rule by which they do not want to expose the driver’s name to the rider. So we have the capability to switch on or off depending on the city; we do not have to create a different application for that. That is the amount of engineering and flexibility that we have built into our system.”

The company has invested in training its people and honing their skills to ensure the success of its data governance programs across all regions.

Data governance examples: 5 key takeaways #

Having explored real-world data governance examples, let’s highlight some of the vital lessons from these stories:

  1. Establish a clear data governance structure with well-defined roles and responsibilities, as demonstrated by GE Aviation’s SSD and Data Admin teams
  2. Set up a single source of truth, as CSE Insurance and Wells Fargo did, to eliminate data silos and make your data governance efforts more streamlined
  3. Treat data as a product and assign owners responsible for ensuring its adherence to your rules, policies, and standards
  4. Adopt a flexible, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’, approach to data governance
  5. Invest in enhancing data literacy so that your employees can understand, interpret, and use data effectively and responsibly, just like Airbnb did with its in-house educational initiative

Read more → Data governance best practices

Bottomline #

It’s crucial to remember that effective data governance goes beyond compliance and risk management — it serves as a strategic catalyst for cultivating trust and generating value from data.

Drawing insights from the successful data governance practices of established organizations helps you learn how to balance compliance with data enablement and democratization.

Such insights help you overcome common obstacles and develop a data governance program that drives business growth, besides helping you navigate the regulatory landscape.

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