Originally published in TDAN.com in October 2011. From time-to-time TDAN.com shares oldie but goodie articles as Features that are relevant for the times. This article, written by TDAN.com publisher, Bob Seiner, was popular in 2011 and hopefully it will be of interest to people now.
Every once in a while, my younger daughter, Mandy, comes to me with a quote that she read or saw somewhere and wants me to consider using it as the weekly quote on the front pages of TDAN.com. Mandy is fourteen.
Mandy came to me with the quote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” A little sappy to be sure, but certainly something I could imagine my daughter bringing to me. I immediately thought, “how can this quote relate to data governance?” I saw an instant connection. I quickly asked, “who said that?” Mandy’s teen-dom response was “somebody?”
The funny thing is that I had heard this quote at least once before and, after intense internet research (ok, a few key strokes), I found the quote all over the place. I also found that the quote is not attributed to anybody in particular. “Somebody” for sure, but we just don’t know who. I typically do not use un-quotable quotes on the pages of TDAN.com but the more I thought about the quote, the more I thought it would make a great article related to data governance. Let me explain …
We Are in the Middle of a Storm
If you work in Corporate America or in Corporate Anywhere, or if you work in the Private Sector or Public Sector Anywhere, or in Education Anywhere, or you are even in Self-Employment Anywhere, chances are that you are feeling the storm. Financial times are difficult for E-v-e-r-y-b-o-d-y. The stock market has taken a bad dive from time to time, thus the retirement of the word “retirement” in many people’s vocabularies. Unemployment is at the highest levels any of us has ever seen. Companies are cutting back, cutting back, and then cutting back some more. Projects are being delayed if not cancelled. Co-workers of many years are being shown the door. Companies are becoming leaner if not meaner in the way they are down-sizing. The storm is here. It is hanging right above us and we are all feeling it.
Information Technology or IT is not the only part of these organizations that have dark clouds above them. Business areas are feeling the pinch as well. In fact, when the belt gets tightened and funding gets withheld, this impacts everybody in the organization. Data governance programs that impact both IT and business have become the latest victims of lack of funding at many organizations. These organizations recognize that Data Governance is important when it comes to compliance, regulatory control, classification, security, privacy, and the overall management of data-oriented risk. However, the storm has caused many of these organizations to hang the awning over Data Governance and wait for the storm to pass.
Most organizations understand the need for Data Governance but most organizations will raise their hands when asked if they are not putting the emphasis on Data Governance that they should, or that they have significant room for improvement in governing data. If you are not certain where your organization stands, I suggest that you take a look at The Data Governance Test in a previous issue of TDAN.com to perform a self-evaluation of where your organization stands on data governance in comparison to where it wants to stand.
I will be surprised if you come to the conclusion that you are well on your way or that the storm isn’t having some kind of impact on your Data Governance program.
Life Isn’t About Waiting for the Storm to Pass
So certainly, one option that you have is to wait for the storm to pass. Gather under the awning. If you know how long the storm will last, please share that with me and my readers. Experts say that we are seeing signs that the poor economy has reached its bottom; however, even the optimistic experts say that it may be a long while (if ever) before the economy comes back anywhere close to where it was. The days of excess may be behind us. The days of overstaffing, over-budgeting and consultant-laden organizations may also be behind us. The days of heavy financial scrutiny are here and all indications are that they will not be leaving anytime soon. Grab your raincoat, galoshes, umbrella, and rubber duckies—the storm may be with us a while.
While it is storming outside (and sometimes inside) your organization’s walls, the problems and opportunities that surround the management of data are not planning to go away anytime soon. Chances are that your management still considers managing the risk around data (including compliance, security, privacy, classification, audit, …) to be very important. Chances are that management also continues to look for ways to improve the value that they get from their data (through business intelligence, master data management, package implementation, …); however, these are the types of initiatives that may be relegated to the back burner for the time being.
Here is a simple suggestion. Do what you can NOW to address these problems and (more importantly) opportunities, even if little or no funding is available. Learn to dance in the rain.
It’s About Learning to Dance in the Rain
Here is something that you probably have not thought about: the definition of “dancing”. Dancing is defined as – moving rhythmically, usually to music, using prescribed or improvised steps and gestures [thefreedictionary.com].
Last time I checked, dancing didn’t cost any money at all. Dancing in the rain doesn’t cost much either (and you probably have more room). Wait … That’s all wrong. Mandy, remember her as the one who came up with this sappy quote to begin with, dances all the time. Most of the time it’s free when she is constantly fluttering [sorry … moving rhythmically] around the house to music in her head, but the dance lessons and theatre arts training are starting to cost something. OK … So dancing is not always free.
Data Governance programs are not always free either. However, with proper management, a Data Governance program (particularly a Non-Invasive Data Governance program) can provide value to the organization the likes it has never seen before, and at an extremely low cost. Let me say that again (for emphasis). A Data Governance program can provide a high level of value to the organization without spending heaps of money.
If you have read my articles before you probably know that The Non-Invasive Data Governance™ approach does not require large (or even medium) size financial support—at least not initially—and typically never. The approach I take focuses on improving communications, coordination, and cooperation around the definition, production, and usage of data through leveraging existing levels of authority / accountability and addressing opportunities to improve.
Back to the storm … So what can we do to move our organization forward while it rains like the dickens? What can we do to get the focus where it needs to be to put a Data Governance program in place? Perhaps we can step outside, into the storm for a moment, and look for things that we as an organization can be doing right now to put the basic components of the Non-Invasive Data Governance™ program in place without really feeling the impacts of the storm. Hey … I would call that dancing—and who cares if you get a little wet!
Here are a few things that you can do right now to step outside into the storm, dance a little bit, and build a solid foundation for a Non-Invasive Data Governance™ program:
- Convince your management that, depending on the approach you take, a Data Governance Program only costs the time you put into it. You will need to explain that the primary cost of a “Non-Invasive Data Governance”™ program is the availability of human resources to manage the program. Incremental costs only come through expansion, acceptance, and formalized involvement.
- Identify a person that will have the responsibility of defining what data governance will mean for the organization. This individual should have access to business and IT area resources that are charged with improving value, quality, and process through improved data risk management, data integration and … Data governance.
- Pick a project or an activity to work with and learn from and leverage these activities use of the appropriate people to define, produce and use specific data related to the activity. In other words, learn from your present state of information security, business intelligence, master data management, scorecards and dashboards. There is already some level of governance in place. Learn from it.
- Record information about the people engaged in data activities related to this project in a structured manner, either through the use of a data steward repository, or a tool I call the Common Data Matrix© used to record and track cross-reference information about domains and business areas.
- While 3 & 4 are taking place, have the person from 2 work with his/her colleagues to define a practical and pragmatic Data Governance framework of roles & responsibilities, addressing Operational, Tactical, Strategic, Executive, and Support management and map the roles of the framework to the existing level of governance around the data for each partnering initiative.
- Pardon the bold hint! Seek mentoring assistance from someone who has your best interests in mind and who has implemented effective Non-Invasive Data Governance™ programs in the past. Use this mentor to provide knowledge transfer and spot resourcing (deliver assessment, action plan, policy, awareness, communication) as needed throughout the program development.
None of these bullets cost a lot of money. OK … Number 6 may cost something, but as long as you get great value from what you pay for, and you build the program that will work for your organization, this is money well spent.
Mandy, and a few people before her, said that “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Well … It’s raining pretty hard out there.
Your first option is to sit around waiting for the rain to stop—and we all know that could be a long time. Waiting for the storm to pass may or may not lead to your still being there when the clouds disappear and the sun comes out once more.
Your second option is to get outside and dance in the rain. Find things that you can do on the rainy days, with a restrained budget, with lack of resources. Find ways that you can build a Data Governance program now, even while your organization is not consciously applying significant resources to put the program in place.
I assure you that there are things you can be doing right now, for little or no cost—like dancing in the rain—which will open Management’s eyes to how effective Non-Invasive Data Governance™ can be. Take that step forward, start building and demonstrating cost effective results from your Non-Invasive Data Governance™ program, and you never know where that may lead you within your organization.