Your Company, Your Tech

Flexibility and Governance: A Necessary Trade-Off for Using Data?

In a world full of hard decisions, we are often required to compromise between what appear to be two undesirable alternatives. Most often, these problems are resolved by accepting a little of the ‘bad’ alongside what is, ideally, a larger helping of the ‘good’. The hope is that a balance between suboptimal outcomes exists. But does using your company’s data require making a similar choice between flexibility and governance?

On the one hand, your team requires flexibility to make the most of their skills and to create the critical insights that your company relies upon. To make this happen, they need to be able to access data, to integrate that data with their workflows, and to share that data with other working groups. In other words, they need data flexibility so that they can work efficiently, work effectively, and work together.

On the other hand, your company requires governance to ensure operational safety, to protect business assets, and to maintain trade specifications. To use data responsibly, management must impose controls and your team must uphold them. Signoffs have to be completed, changes need to be tracked, and integrity has to be verified. These steps are intended to prevent critical failures of oversight, but they add friction to any operation and therefore come at the expense of flexibility.

Implementing an effective combination of flexibility and governance is fraught with challenges:

  • Commercial off-the-shelf solutions are useful for specific uses like scheduling or procurement, they can be a poor fit for a team’s workflow and therefore require extensive staff re-training or system retrofitting.
  • Creating in-house solutions can provide a better match, but often introduces unforeseen problems which requires resolving issues on an ad-hoc basis.
  • The use of specialized tools can create internal silos that prevent working groups from communicating with each other.
  • Mass market software products like those offered by Google or Microsoft may yield quick results due to their familiarity but seldom adhere to corporate or site-based data quality standards.
  • Data controls add complexity and time to operations which means they often have low buy-in from team members who would rather just get on with their work.
  • In practice, the result is work processes that often lack both flexibility and governance. The outcomes can range from irritating to catastrophic. Teams can become disgruntled with oversight or software that they rightly suspect does little to improve their work. Incomplete compatibility causes leakage that requires redundant work hours to recover data. Critical information can be miscommunicated or missed entirely.

    But like all dilemmas, the opposition of data flexibility and data governance is only an intractable problem if you do not look for a third way. Companies that value their teams’ immediate tactical needs but refuse to compromise on their long-term strategic goals now have another solution available: common platforms. These integrate work processes and security in a single software environment to make achieving data quality an intuitive and convenient part of completing work.

    But a common platform does not compromise on flexibility to maintain these standards. By including a robust toolset, a common platform preserves individual workflows and enhances teamwork. Not only can common platforms allow hardcore schedulers to integrate complex workflows and spreadsheet jockeys to mine data for insights, but it can enhance teamwork. Common platforms connect teams and data that were previously separated from each other by technical barriers. Teams save time and frustration because they can attach notes, files, and communications at the point where data is accessed. And they gain new insights because common platforms integrate independent processes including estimating, procurement, inspections, contracting, scheduling, and maintenance by connecting their data. The result? Productivity gains, internal cohesion, and unprecedented insights.

    Forward-thinking enterprises recognize that the apparent contradiction of data flexibility and data governance is in fact the result of incompatible applications. If you or your company are committed to finding solutions that let your team work, you can learn more by contacting us at or visiting us at