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Data principles

Principles are the cornerstone of any successful data governance framework

Principles should govern the design of new data services, changes to existing datasets and impact analysis of larger internal and external change.

The principles for the New Landscape were developed using the TOGAF approach and are outlined in the New Landscape Report. In this toolkit the HEDIIP principles have been refined using those sourced from the Government Design Principles. Their origin is less important than their purpose: a good principle must have an identifiable opposite so that when applied it is clear the principle has been followed to make a decision.

In the principles below:

  • ‘Information’ is used rather than ‘data’ to shape the principle around the value of data.
  • These principles are covered in great detail. To create your own principles consider honing them down to something more manageable by only selecting the parts which support your data aspirations.
  • Items in bold are those considered to be the most important part of the principle.
  1. Information is a valued asset
    Information should be understood and valued as much – and sometimes more – as other organisational assets such as buildings, people or money. The full value of information lies not just in its original purpose but in its potential to be reused for other purposes.
  2. Information is managed
    Information should be managed, protected and exploited according to its value. Information owners/stewards need to consider the whole life-cycle of information from identification of need, creation, quality assurance, maintenance, reuse and archiving or destruction once the information has ceased to be useful. A range of best practices need to be in place to ensure appropriate availability and integrity, avoid loss and ensure continuity across technology upgrades. Information also needs to be governed as it moves through its life-cycle; it needs to be clear who is responsible for it. Finally, the organisational culture must support best practice in information management and ensure everyone responsible for processing business assets is professionally qualified and appropriately skilled.
  3. Information is fit for purpose
    Information must be good quality and fit for both its primary purpose and potential secondary/tertiary uses. Quality includes factors such as accuracy, validity, reliability, timeliness, relevance and completeness. The quality of information should be regularly monitored to ensure that it at least meets the level that has been assessed as necessary for its purpose(s).
  4. Information is standardised and linkable
    Standardisation within an organisation is important to fully exploit the information; if an organisation used widely accepted open standards it will unlock even more value. Even further value can be derived if data can be linked; a good example is document references and citations that allow the reader to draw on a wealth of associated information. A similar concept can be applied to structured data based on an understanding of the relationships between items and the use of consistent identifiers to reference authoritative sources (the basis of the ‘semantic web’.)
  5. Information is reused
    Information is even more valuable if it can be used more than once or for more than one purpose. A good data steward will proactively look for opportunities for reuse which could include: internal reuse, external reuse, holding master reference data. While this principle strongly encourages reuse, it is important to appreciate that reuse does require a careful risk-based judgement to be made with regard to exploiting information versus protecting information as well as consideration to the costs and benefits involved. It should also be noted that information that initially appears unsuitable may be reusable if it can be reformatted.
  6. Information is accessible
    Individuals and organisations must be able to access information about themselves along with an explanation of how that information is used by others. This principle goes beyond minimum legal requirements. It advocates a proactive approach which makes it easier for individuals to access information about themselves. Information owners would need to consider how this works in practice to enable users to view information and perform transactions, for example correcting inaccuracies. Finally, the desire to publish information does need to be balanced against the constraints which may prevent this, such as competitively sensitive information.
  7. Shared sector information is published
    This principle goes beyond minimum legal/regulatory requirements and advocates a proactive approach to presenting, formatting and promoting information in useful formats for wider consumption without it needing to be specifically requested or mandated in legislation. The benefits of publishing information should be balanced against possible risks and sensitivities.