At typical Data Owner Forums, Data Governance Committees, or whatever you call yours, everything must appear effortless and elegant giving the impression that all is progressing swimmingly and easily. But beware, it may well be the former – but never underestimate the amount of effort required to create the impression of the latter. The elegance of a swan comes to mind as the best analogy for the situation, especially early on in your data governance initiative when a great deal of frantic paddling under the water is required (but to be honest a fair amount of effort is required on an ongoing basis).
As the Data Governance Committee is often set up early on a Data Governance initiative and may well be involved in steering the implementation of your data governance framework, it is vital that it functions successfully, so I thought I would share with you my top tips for running a successful forum:
1. Timing is Tantamount
Do not set it up until it has a function to serve. If it is the only part of your DG Framework which you have implemented, it is doomed to fail as it will have nothing to do. Everyone these days spends too much time in meetings, no one will thank you (and to be honest they probably won’t agree to attend) if it doesn’t yet have anything to do – it may be that you want it to steer the DG initiative but make that clear and include in its terms of reference how and when it will evolve into a business as usual body.
2. Casting the Chair
The chair of your committee needs to be a senior supporter of your data governance initiative, ideally your senior sponsor, to give it credibility and influence. Do not think that as the Data Governance Manager you should chair this meeting – your role is to facilitate, provide expert advice and to ensure that all goes swimmingly, but never to chair the meeting.
3. Action Packed Agendas
Do not hold a meeting if there is not enough content on the agenda. If there is nothing to discuss, debate or approve, what are you holding the meeting for? Straightforward updates on progress can always be circulated by email. It is better to cancel or reschedule a meeting than to insist on holding it with a mediocre agenda – this will result in stakeholder disengagement.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare! It sounds obvious, but is often overlooked. The attendees of this meeting will be senior people who are pressed for time. Make sure that none of the time they have allocated to your meeting gets wasted, make sure everything is planned and organized and don’t overlook the basic admin tasks such as booking meeting rooms, arranging conference calls and printing papers. You do not want such minor issues to distract focus and eat into to the valuable time you have available for important data decisions to be made.
5. Perfect Planning
A continuation of the previous tip I’ll admit, but you need to plan well for the meetings. Agree the agenda well in advance of the meeting with the Chair and give plenty of notice to those required to submit papers or present at the meeting (and it doesn’t do any harm to remind them a week or so ahead of when you need their submissions.)
Send the meeting pack out in advance but not too soon or too late. Too soon and it will get lost, too late and your attendees won’t have time to read and digest the documents before the meeting. I have found that two or three working days in advance works well, but that will of course depend on the culture and working practices of your organization.
6. No Surprises
Never ask for big decisions to be made without giving plenty of warning. Share significant proposals with key members (ideally all of them, if you have the time and calendars allow) so that they are on board ahead of the meeting. This is particularly important before the inaugural meeting of your committee. Simply inviting them and hoping that they will show up on the day just will not work. Before the first meeting you must make the time and effort to meet with each of your members individually, to gain their support for the forum and to give them each an opportunity away from their peers to provide input into the terms of reference for the committee.
7. Stakeholder Support
You may well be presenting as Data Governance Manager and you need to ensure that you are well prepared for that, but do not forget your other stakeholders. Just because you are not presenting a topic doesn’t mean that you can leave those agenda items to chance. Support your presenters and stakeholders, both in advance of and at the meeting, so that their proposals and presentations achieve the desired outcome.
This list is certainly not exhaustive but by now you may well be exhausted from all that paddling! But I hope that this has given you some insight into how to ensure that your Data Governance Council is successful and please do share your own tips for success by sending me an email or contacting me directly.
Note from the publisher: From time-to-time TDAN.com republishes oldie-but-goodie content from earlier issues of the publication. This feature from Nicola Askham, The Data Governance Coach, was relevant for the times when it was published in 2014 and its still particularly relevant today.