Ask the Data Governance Coach: Managing Senior Stakeholders Who Want Everything

imageedit_1_2117842663If I am being a purist, then data retention, end-user computing, and data protection are most definitely NOT data governance. It is easy therefore to make the logical conclusion that they should not be in the scope of your initiative. So what I say next may surprise you:

Do not immediately go on the defensive and refuse to take any (or even all) of these activities into the scope of your initiative!

Now you may be wondering why someone who spends her time educating people on what Data Governance is would say that! Well, when I’m training and coaching people it is important that they understand what Data Governance is, but when I’m implementing Data Governance in practice, I take a pragmatic approach.

However, I would not want you to think that I would just say yes to an ever-expanding scope. There are a number of factors that would make me consider bringing these additional data activities into the scope of my data governance work, which include:

  • If you work for a small organization that does not have the luxury of separate specialist teams to cover each data management discipline;
  • If they overlap with other projects ongoing at the same time;
  • Or if a senior stakeholder requests it.

Whilst you may become aware of other activities that you want to bring into scope, they are most likely to come to your attention through your senior stakeholders – so, we’re back at the original question:

How do you manage senior stakeholders who ask you to extend the scope of your initiative?

Now whilst it may be tempting to protect the scope of your initiative, remember they have their own agenda. They are not trying to derail your plans, they just have concerns of their own or issues that they need addressed. The first thing you are going to need to do is to listen and understand what their concerns are before you try to educate or influence them. After all, how can you properly allay their concerns if you don’t fully understand them?

But remember whilst it is imperative that you understand why they’re asking you to extend the scope, when I say educate or influence them, I don’t mean your initial stance is to say no! When talking to your senior stakeholder, ask lots of questions and constantly consider the following:

  • What exactly does this person need done?
  • Does it have any alignment or overlap with your data governance work?
  • What will happen if this additional work does not get done? (And in particular will it cause a problem for your data governance initiative?)

Even if the answer to this last question is no, it may still be necessary for you to consider that if you say no, that this senior stakeholder could divert resources currently allocated to your initiative to address this other issue.

Are there benefits and/or efficiencies to be achieved by taking on this work? This can be especially true if you are talking to the same stakeholders.

My advice is to look for solutions that help everyone. This is not about you or them winning. This is about doing the right thing for your organization. Find out why he is concerned about these other topics. Is it because they are not being done, or is it that they are being done but are not visible or are being done but not well enough or quickly enough?

Now obviously I’m biased, but I truly believe that well implemented data governance can be the framework against which you align an awful lot of other activities in your organization (well at least those concerning data)! Once in place, you can use your data governance framework to coordinate, oversee, and escalate other data matters to the appropriate people. That said, it is not the answer to everything and you should resist taking on everything (unless of course you are Superman/Superwoman), or at least agree to timescales for adding additional scope once the implementation of your data governance framework has reached a certain stage.

If you do take on something that perhaps you feel is not in the area of your expertise, that is ok – just be honest and clear on the matter. Explain that whilst, for example, you may not be a data retention expert, you see how including that in your data governance initiative has benefits for the organization. Confirm that you are happy to do the necessary research and support the work if you are given the necessary expert support (for example from your Legal Department).

Remember that whether your data governance initiative is small and focused or has gained additional scope, stakeholder engagement is absolutely vital for success. You need to spend a lot of effort engaging your stakeholders. If by not addressing their other concerns you could lose their engagement, it’s got to be worth considering whether the additional work is something that you can take on.

Finally, if you want ideas on how to go about engaging your stakeholders, you can download my top tips on stakeholder engagement for free if you click here.

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About Nicola Askham

Nicola Askham, The Data Governance Coach, is an independent data management consultant.  Her experience in coaching both regulatory and non-regulatory organisations to design and implement full data governance frameworks, is unique within the Data Governance field. The coaching approach enables organisations to self manage the process beyond initial implementation. Nicola’s coaching and Data Governance workshops, including Solvency II, ensures your data governance framework is embedded as an integral part of your business as usual policy. Nicola can be reached at her web-site: http://www.nicolaaskham.com.

  • Shane Downey

    Great article Nicola. My approach here is to identify how my data governance efforts can support and enable these initiatives to occur. Take data retention as an example. Technically, it is very difficult to write scripts to archive or delete data form source databases. Yes it’s possible, but you risk data corruption, key overwrites, and orphan data sets. Ideally these sorts of features should be built into the system – but many systems don’t have this by design, and for 3rd party software it can be costly to pay the vendor to write a script. So often the safest option, unfortunately, is to manually do it – and that requires someone who knows the data. The data steward is the perfect candidate here given they should be the most familiar with the system & the data. Data governance can assist by establishing the approach to ensuring the retention policy is enforced – but not the doing.
    Shane

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