Practical Points from the DGPO: Communications is the Key

DGPOThere are many great quotes and sayings about communication. Two of my favorites are from Peter Drucker and George Bernard Shaw. Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing about communication is hearing what isn’t said.” And George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest communication problem is the illusion that it has taken place.” The subtleties of communication are what make it so intriguing, so valuable and so DIFFICULT!

I am sure you could quickly note several other great quotes about how to make communication more effective and note even more about how communication is one of the greatest obstacles in both our professional and personal worlds. So, it should be no surprise then that Communications is one of the five key areas that the DGPO Best Practices Special Interest Group (SIG) identified for effective and successful data governance programs. In the core content, they have outlined seven best practices for data governance communications. These best practices will help ensure that you are always able to provide the right level of information to the right audience at the right time in the right modality.

Identify Target Audiences. Before you can send communication, you should first identify the recipients of your message. Not all those with whom you will be communicating will be listening for the same content. Each recipient will listen for “what’s in it for them” and will tune everything else out. So, make it easy on your target audiences and give them what they want and need to hear in the most appropriate format. This means that you will have to classify your audiences based on roles and responsibilities – such as business and IT; executives and stakeholders; mission-critical and general. You may also have to classify your content – such as technical and non-technical; internal-only and public; informational and decision-required; comprehensive and common.

Classifying your audiences and your content means that you will develop multiple versions of the same message and deliver them in ways that best meet your audience’s needs. Just be careful: having multiple versions does not mean the core message should be altered. Make sure that all versions share the same consistent core message you expect to deliver.

Engage All Stakeholders. It is important to consistently and regularly communicate with your stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of your data governance program. While you will always have your finger on the pulse of your data governance successes (and failures), your stakeholders have plenty of other tasks on their plates. It will be your responsibility to market the value of your program by communicating the wins and ROI of data governance initiatives in terms that are meaningful to them. Know what each of the important levers are for your stakeholders and provide regular, periodic status reports of those key metrics. Much of the communication with stakeholders will have to be pushed to them as they will not have the time or the desire to go looking for it themselves. Be proactive and make sure you get them the information they need before they ask for it – or worse – they try to generate it on their own.

Define Roles And Responsibilities. The clear definition of roles and responsibilities eliminates ambiguity and uncertainty. It also ensures that all necessary tasks and deliverables are completed efficiently and effectively. One of the easiest ways to identify and document roles and responsibilities is through a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), also known as a RACI chart. The RAM or RACI chart describes the participation of various roles in completing tasks for projects in terms of who is RESPONSIBLE (R), ACCOUNTABLE (A), CONSULTED (C), and INFORMED (I). By identifying the roles and responsibilities for projects, you have also provided a framework for communication in terms of who needs what information and how often.

Educate And Train. Formal training and education programs ensure that all those who engage with the data governance program understand and act based on the same common core principles. The training provided on behalf of the data governance program can include kickoff events and presentations, ongoing training related to specific projects, onboarding of new employees company-wide, technical training on specific software and tools, change management facilitation, or internal certification programs. The delivery methods may be intranet portals to provide general information and answer FAQs, perform workshops, formal classroom training or online training courses.

Establish And Embed Standards. Defined communication standards such as templates, matrices and schedules ensure consistent and timely messaging from the Data Governance Office. It also ensures that key stakeholders and interested parties are not left out of important communication. Missing a key stakeholder at a critical communication point can be an instant recipe for disaster. Identify your touchpoints with your audiences in terms of who, what, when and how. Acknowledge and use preferred communication methods as identified by your stakeholders. Messages that are delivered in a consistent format make it easy for the recipient to know where to look quickly and find the information they need. The easier your communication is to receive, the more effective it is. EFFORTLESS = EFFECTIVE.

 Leverage Communication Tools. There are numerous technology tools that make communication easier than ever before. Use PowerPoint to “plug and play” specific slides for target audiences. Hide and unhide as necessary. Build tailored presentations from core presentations. Work smart not hard. Intranet portals can provide easy “one-stop” shopping for business definitions, defined procedures and FAQs. Don’t try and re-invent the wheel for communication tools. Use what you already have and spend your time on making sure the message is right for the right audience.

Facilitate Inbound Communication. Communication is a two-way street. Not all communication should be outbound from the Data Governance Office. Make sure you enable channels for feedback. Take the time to facilitate interviews and surveys. If you engage your stakeholders effectively, they will want to be an active part of making data governance better – especially where it matters to them. Whether it is a general data governance email box or an old-fashioned comment card box by the water fountain – give them a place for their voice to be heard. And make sure they have the means to do so anonymously or attached with all the glory they choose. Remember you want to meet your audiences wherever they are and foster communication in ways that is best for them.

As you have read these communication best practices, did you consider how you have implemented them (or not) at your company? What could you tweak to make data governance communication more effective and valuable? What do you do really well in your data governance communication? If you have specific best practices to share, one of the greatest values in DGPO membership are the case studies. We would love to share your communication successes with our members!

Anne Buff
DGPO VP Communications

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About Data Governance Professionals Organization

The DGPO is a non-profit, vendor neutral, association of business, IT and data professionals dedicated to advancing the discipline of data governance. If you would like more information on joining the DGPO, please check out the DGPO Website.

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