What is Data Sharing?

"Users must have access to any data necessary to perform their duties; therefore data must be shared across enterprise functions and departments"

Data sharing is the ability to share the same data resource with multiple applications or users. It implies that the data are stored in one or more servers in the network and that there is some software locking mechanism that prevents the same set of data from being changed by two people at the same time. Data sharing is a primary feature of a database management system (DBMS).

Timely access to accurate data is essential to improving the quality and efficiency of enterprise decision-making. It is less costly to maintain timely, accurate data in a single application, and then share it, than it is to maintain duplicative data in multiple applications.

Legacy systems

Organisations hold a wealth of data, but often it is stored in hundreds of incompatible stovepipe databases and file-servers. The speed of data collection, creation, transfer, and assimilation is driven by the ability of the departments to efficiently share these islands of data across the organisation.

Data sharing will result in improved decisions since organisations will rely on fewer sources of more accurate and timely managed data for all of their decision-making. Electronically shared data will result in increased efficiency when existing data entities can be re-used.

Supply chain partners

Additionally, barriers to the outside world must come down too. Organisations now work with more and more external business partners, and efficient sharing of information assets is essential for this to work. It is more effective to de-protect. Legacy departmental culture tends to be over-protectionist. In fact, all the evidence is that more value can be derived from sharing more.

Implications for data sharing

Sharing data is one of three closely-related principles regarding data: data is an asset; data is shared; and data is easily accessible.The implication is that there is an education and training task to ensure that all departments within the organisation understand the relationship between value of data, sharing of data, and accessibility to data.

To enable data sharing organisations must develop and abide by a common set of policies, procedures, and standards governing data management and access for both the short and the long term. For the short term, to preserve significant investment in legacy systems, organisations may have to invest in software capable of migrating legacy system data into a shared data environment.

Organisations will also need to develop standard data models, data elements, and other metadata that defines this shared environment and develop a repository system for storing this metadata to make it accessible.

For the long term, as legacy systems are replaced, organisations might adopt and enforce common data access policies and guidelines for new application developers to ensure that data in new applications remains available to the shared environment and that data in the shared environment can continue to be used by the new applications.

In the short term and the long term organisations can adopt common methods and tools for creating, maintaining, and accessing the data shared across the organisation.

Data sharing also requires a significant cultural change. This principle of data sharing will continually "bump up against" the principle of data security. Under no circumstances should confidential data to be compromised.

Data made available for sharing will have to be relied upon by all users to execute their respective tasks. This will ensure that only the most accurate and timely data is relied upon for decision-making.

Data sharing agreement


Your organisation should set out and agree how data should be shared using an information sharing protocol or partnership agreement. This will set out the necessary details to share relevant information appropriately.

To ensure that the information can and will be shared, make sure that the following questions are answered.

  • Are all existing information sharing protocols and agreements available for review?
  • Should the agreement relate to any associated information sharing protocols, partnership agreements and other strategic documents?
  • Do partners understand why an agreement is needed and what its purpose will be?
  • Are the context and scope of the agreement clearly defined and understood?
  • Are the responsibilities of individual members of staff clearly defined and understood?
  • Are the purposes for which information is required clearly defined and are the information requirements fully explored and understood?
  • Has due consideration been given to the legality of sharing the information and its use once shared?
  • Will the information be safe during transfer and after sharing?
  • Have the appropriate communication channels been identified  to ensure that the agreement and the consequences of sharing are known by the relevant people?
  • Is there a process in place to feedback any problems in relation to access, the information, data quality etc?

It is a good idea to complete an information sharing agreement with partners to ensure that the information entered is correct. This can be used to transfer the information between partners.

Information Sharing Agreement

An Information Sharing Agreement template is available to download here
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