Exploring the SME quandary: data governance in practise in the small to medium-sized enterprise sector

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The purpose of this paper is to explore how small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) perceive data and data governance and investigates whether current data governance frameworks are applicable to SMEs. Enterprises of all sizes and complexity have had to learn how to operate in an increasingly digital business environment. Such an environment demands that an enterprise equips itself with the ability to use its data effectively both internally and when dealing with external partners such as suppliers and customers. Enterprises now recognise that both their survival and success requires taking control of all aspects of their data as a critical business resource. In recognition of the demands placed on enterprises in this digital age, a discipline has emerged called data governance. Although the definition of data governance is still evolving, current usage describes this discipline as being a facilitator for enterprises to take control over all aspects of their data resource from the setting of integrity constraints for data quality to the creation of enterprise-wide policies on data access and security. Large enterprises are often better placed to absorb the necessary demands that data governance places on resources. However, for the resource-poor SME, the investment in data governance is far more challenging but nevertheless critical in the digital business environment. This paper reviews examples of published data governance frameworks to establish whether these frameworks are applicable to SMEs. A data governance framework (Khatri & Brown, 2010) is assessed using ten SMEs that have differing data requirements. This research is further enhanced by reviewing the results of a project which audited technology use in SMEs. This paper finds that although many data governance frameworks claim to be adaptable and scalable, there is little published evidence by industry or academics on the application of data governance to SMEs. Furthermore, our research revealed that the optimal use of data governance frameworks requires that those with authority and responsibility over enterprise data must have knowledge and some understanding of the terminology that describes data, data-related issues, and data-based technology and this requirement may not be met for many SMEs. The initial reflections on the reality of data governance for SMEs reveal that they do not recognise the inherent value of their data nor view their data as having an independent existence from the systems that support their business processes. The paper concludes, amongst other things, that SMEs are poorly served by the data governance community and that further research is required to fully appreciate their data governance needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
JournalThe Electronic Journal of Information Systems Evaluation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • data governance
  • SME
  • data management
  • data quality
  • framework


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