One Data Governance for All

ART01x - edited feature imageThere is … but one … Data Governance. I know that some people will disagree with me. Maybe you are one of those that believe that there is something called Master Data Governance, Information Governance, Metadata Governance, Big Data Governance, Customer [or insert domain name here] Data Governance, Data Governance 1.0 – 2.0 – 3.0, or maybe even that there is something being touted as the next generation of Data Governance. But I am here to tell you that there is only one Data Governance. Hear me out and let me know if you agree. Or if you don’t.

“There is only one Data Governance.”

I am not talking about the approach that your organization is taking to implement Data Governance. We all know the three approaches to Data Governance that I described in an article, Comparing Approaches to Data Governance, published several years ago. The three approaches are the Command-and-Control approach best described by the phrase “you WILL do this”, the Traditional approach otherwise referred to as the Field of Dreams approach (“if you build it, they will come”) best described by the phrase “you SHOULD do this”, and my favorite, the Non-Invasive Data Governance approach best described by the phrase “you ALREADY do this.”

I write and speak a lot about the Non-Invasive Data Governance approach. However, the adjective “non-invasive” describes “how data governance is applied” rather than describing what it means to govern the data or which data you are governing. Data Governance is the execution and enforcement of authority over the management of data and data-related assets. That is … the execution and enforcement of authority over the management of Master Data, Information, Metadata, Big Data, Customer Data … basically the execution and enforcement of authority over the data assets that are being governed.

“Data Governance is the execution and enforcement of authority over
the management of data and data-related assets.”

Data Governance 2.0 and so on are targeted at how the discipline of Data Governance is expanding and evolving when compared to how we got started in the field. Next versions of Data Governance highlight our disappointment in how past Data Governance efforts have failed to deliver on expectations. Newer “versions” expand the breadth of governance to address next generation data and technologies. The future generations of data governance correct the problems of our past and address the opportunities of the future, but they still focus on executing and enforcing authority over the management of the data. Because there is only one Data Governance.

Master Data has been an important data management discipline for years. Think back to when Master Data became a known discipline. Everyone spoke about how important it was to govern our Master Data. Data Governance and MDM became connected at the hip – thus Master Data Governance was born – with the idea that it was somehow different from plain ol’ Data Governance.

Recall quickly what it was like when Big Data first became a hot data management discipline. Big Data has been an important data management discipline for a shorter period than Master Data, but the topic still ranks highly in search engine results focused on data topics. Back when Big Data was new, and still today, people recognize the need to govern Big Data. Big Data and Data Governance became connected at the knees. Thus, Big Data Governance was born – with the idea that this form of governance was somehow different from plain ol’ Data Governance.

What is next — Smart Data Governance, Unstructured Data Governance, Audio and Video Governance? I say NO and that these names for Data Governance are nonsense. We do not have to label Data Governance with these markers because the end result of Data Governance should be the same no matter how we paint Data Governance.

“These names for Data Governance are nonsense.”

There are subtle (some say more than subtle) differences between the disciplines associated with my long list of Data Governance names I listed back in paragraph one. Of course, Metadata Governance – a topic very near and dear to me – focuses on the governance of the data about data, or data documentation. Metadata and data are different.

Therefore the people accountable for governing the definition, production, and use of the metadata may be different from people accountable for the definition, production, and usage of the business or transactional data. People accountable for the metadata may be different from the people accountable for the Master Data, or Customer data, or Big Data. But the results of governing the data need to be the same. We need to execute and enforce authority over the management of data and data-related assets.

Data Stewardship can be discussed the same way. Data Stewards are people that are held formally accountable for how they define, produce and use data. That data can be Master Data, Information, Metadata, Big Data — pick a label. If somebody defines, produces, and uses the data related to that label — and they are held formally accountable for how they define, produce, and use the data — then they are a Data Steward no matter how you label your Data Governance effort. Everybody is a Data Steward and I tell people to get over that fact.

“Data Stewards are people that are held formally accountable
for the data they define, produce and use. Everybody is a Data Steward.”

The same holds true for new versions of Data Governance, including versions 2.0, versions 3.0, and any new version of Data Governance that is coming down the pike. The end result needs to be the same. The governance of that data is the execution and enforcement of authority over that data. The stewardship of that data is the formalization of accountability for that data.

There is only one Data Governance. Please let me know if you feel differently and we can keep the conversation going. Thanks.

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About Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. (Bob) Seiner is the publisher of The Data Administration Newsletter (TDAN.com) – and has been since it was introduced in 1997 – providing valuable content for people that work in Information & Data Management and related fields. TDAN.com is known for its timely and relevant articles, columns and features from thought-leaders and practitioners. Seiner and TDAN.com were recognized by DAMA International for significant and demonstrable contributions to Information and Data Resource Management industries. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services, a data and information management consultancy that he started in 2002, providing practical and cost-effective solutions in the disciplines of data governance, data stewardship, metadata management and data strategy. Seiner is a recognized industry thought-leader, has consulted with and educated many prominent organizations nationally and globally, and is known for his unique approach to implementing data governance. His book “Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success” was published in late 2014. Seiner speaks often at the industry’s leading conferences and provides a monthly webinar series titled “Real-World Data Governance” with DATAVERSITY.

  • http://www.nubetech.co Sonal

    So true! I really like the definition of a data steward, even people who consume data are stewards.

  • Suzanne Pang

    I like the simplicity of “define, produce and use”. But what about people who don’t do any of those activities, and their official role is to love and care for them, i.e. maintain reporting systems or manage access to/extraction of data. Does that make them more custodians than stewards?

    I agree that there is only 1 Data Governance. In fact, let’s truncate that further – governance is governance. Any category of thing that has formal authority executed and enforced over it is being governed. Governance is a discipline based on principles that can be applied to data, projects, potatoes, etc. Isn’t the term governance really just a fancy name for management? Just as we have rules and delegations for managing our financial and physical assets, the same discipline should be extended to information assets.

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