You have heard the phrase “Practice makes perfect,” and you have probably lived through enough life events to learn the wisdom and truth of this. When it comes to data governance, not only does practice make perfect, but so does process. In fact, it is more like an infinity loop where the combination of process and practice make perfect. Well, perfect is always relative, but we will go with it for the sake of the old adage.
“Processes” is one of the five key areas defined by the DGPO Best Practices Special Interest Group (SIG) as inherent to successful data governance programs. In the core content, the SIG has outlined five best practices for process implementation and execution in data governance programs. These best practices help to reduce costs and efforts through repeatable, consistent and manageable activities, develop enterprise-wide integration and acceptance, and accelerate program maturity while meeting targeted results.
- Identify core focus areas. Processes for data governance should be established within the context of strategic business initiatives. The purpose of a process should be to establish consistency in cross-functional work activities with clearly defined outcomes that have meaningful and measurable outcomes. In nascent data governance programs, the number of core focus areas should be limited to ensure efforts are focused on successful outcomes. Once defined, the core focus areas establish the scope of the data governance program. As the program matures, focus areas should be re-evaluated and expanded to address other business needs. Start small and evolve.
- Establish repeatable processes. Clearly defined and established practices specify unmistakable details such as who, what, where, when, why, and how with the intent of implementation consistency throughout the entire business. Thoroughly vetted and tested repeatable processes that are easily duplicated reduce the need for administration while ensuring precise execution.
- Develop clear documentation. Process documentation should be comprehensive but concise and should not be complicated. The documentation must be written in such a way that program participants readily understand all of the required steps, workflow sequences, individual responsibilities, and accountable roles. Workflow and swim lane diagrams, operating guides and process narratives are particularly useful documentation assets. When developing process documentation it is important to consider the consuming audiences. High level overviews and general guides will be more appropriate for senior leadership while detailed playbook instructions will be necessary for participants executing specific activities. Design appropriately.
- Identify integration opportunities. Processes should leverage and integrate with existing initiatives, business objectives, and organizational culture. Integrating data governance processes and activities with existing processes and programs (e.g., SDLC, program and project review boards, budget processes, data security, data privacy, business processes, etc.) reduces the duplication of efforts that happen across business units, saving money and time. The implementation of data governance processes within the framework of existing processes inherently takes into consideration the tolerance of the organizational culture for specific activities which allows for ease of adoption and acceptance of data governance across the entire business.
- Actively monitor and maintain. Data governance programs are not sustainable with successful process implementation alone. Processes must be continually reviewed to ensure targeted outcomes are met and requirements are also met. As business needs shift over time, the value and need for specific processes will change. Divergence over time from defined processes is common (and natural), and without oversight will chip quickly away at the integrity of the data governance program. Use stewards and custodians to enforce process requirements and maintain communication channels as change in needs arise. Use dashboards for easy communication and technology solutions for monitoring automation.
Process design, development, implementation, and maintenance are all critical elements for success in data governance programs. Consider these “processes” best practices in conjunction with process management at your company. Are there changes you should make to your current processes? Are there additions or tweaks you should make? Do you have specific process management best practices at your company that you would like to share? One of the greatest values in DGPO membership are the case studies. We would love to have you share your communication successes with our members!