Benefits of Data Classification and How to Do it Right

By Roeland Krom • published April 21, 2021 • last updated February 4, 2022

Data classification is undeniably not a sexy process. However, it’s one that’s unavoidable in the age of big data. The practice of organizing data into defined categories simplifies the process of locating and retrieving information, making it easier to use and protect. Getting it right can yield significant advantages for a business since it allows data to be managed centrally and thereby more effectively and, above all, securely.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of data classification, how it’s typically done, and how organizations can start doing it better.

Why Data Classification is Important

For most businesses, data classification is a hygiene exercise. It improves data security and allows them to meet regulatory compliance obligations. It also means that information can be audited and checked more easily, both in terms of its accuracy and how it is stored.  

Sensitive customer information must be stored securely and deleted after a defined periodThese legal obligations can be met by creating data categories and applying security rules to them.  

The benefits of data classification mostly trace back to this point, but there are also functional advantages. By categorizing data fields, organizations can assign central permissions to control who can view, modify, and delete key intelligence, instead of having to validate each endpoint. 

Various applications can also be assigned permissions to ensure that data fields are only updated by applications with the most accurate records. The result is a system that can limit access to sensitive information, monitor the use of intellectual property assets, and maintain security.   

How Can Data be Classified?

There are many ways to tackle the challenge of classification, but they almost all begin with creating data categories and tags. These can relate to the content of the data (customer credit card details or records of warehouse equipment) for example, and its nature (public, private, sensitive, or secret). 

Data can then be assigned to the categories creating a kind of digital filing system. This function is often performed by IT teams who then act as data custodians. They maintain banks of information by keeping it up to date and provide access as required by business users.  

Be aware, though, that this function can take significant time and effort, particularly when IT professionals are tasked with handling data across many platforms.  

Cohelion’s Approach

Recognizing these challenges, we’ve created a Master Data Management (MDM) system that allows businesses to improve the way they handle information. Our system integrates data from various sources to create a single canonical data model. It’s a way to categorize and present data – and its various relationships – as clearly as possible.  

On a functional level, the system and its processes are fairly straightforward 

  1. Every field or attribute from an existing data source is tagged. Information from multiple sources can then be united into a single ‘golden record’ that business users can easily make sense of.  
  2. To control access to data, users can be assigned various levels of authority based on the system. This means that only those with the relevant permissions can view, modify, or delete data.  
  3. In cases where fields are sourced from multiple applications, The Cohelion Data Platform, our system makes it possible to create XML schema definitions (XSDs) for each application individually to filter data before it is sent to the MDM.  
  4. Managers and stakeholders from each department can – and should – create their own customized categories and tags. These functions can be completed by business users rather than technical professionals.  
  5. The MDM system is managed from an intuitive web interface, allowing those responsible for individual business areas to take real ownership of their data.  
  6. This shifts the burden (and bottleneck) away from IT teams and improves security by limiting the number of people who can access sensitive data.  

Going through this process, however, can take some convincing across some business units. Explaining how it will benefit them and their team in the long run will help a great deal. Taking the approach of involving everyone to do their part will help speed up the process. Stakeholders will also, then, have a vested interest in making it successful. 

Data Classification Made Easy

Data classification may not be the most exciting business topic, but it still needs to be addressed properly. Fortunately, systems that tackle this challenge effectively do much more than merely tick compliance boxes.  

Our model makes information management simple and, hopefully, a little more fun for everyone. Through an intuitive user interface, the task of maintaining and tagging records can be delegated to users at all levels. It’s a more efficient way to deal with a boring task, all whilst improving data quality.  

With the Cohelion Data Platform, you can streamline the data management process, maintain high-quality business records, and stay compliant. 


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