Don’t Tell Management About Data Governance

FEA01x - image - EDOriginally published under the name “What Not to Tell Management about Data Governance” in TDAN.com in August 2014. From time-to-time, TDAN.com will share oldie but goodie articles as Features that are relevant for the times. This article, written by Robert S. Seiner was made available one month before his book was published. This article was popular then and hopefully it will be of interest to people now.


This brief excerpt from my book, Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success – published in September 2014, focuses on a set of messages that can assist your organization in getting past some of the major misunderstandings people have about data governance. I labeled these things “What Not to Tell Management” — or as I refer to it in this updated feature, things you “Don’t Tell Management About Data Governance”
The things not to tell Management are:
  1. Avoid selling data governance as a huge challenge.  If your management already thinks that data governance will be a major challenge, try to calm them by referring to the Messages for Management outlined in the book (already governing data and formalizing existing levels of accountability being the most important). Data governance can be implemented in a non-threatening, non-interfering, non-culture-changing, non-Invasive way that will reduce the challenges people in your company may have. Data governance need not be implemented all at once. In fact, most organizations that successfully introduce data governance implement their programs incrementally. This includes the scope of data that’s governed domain-wise and organizationally, and the level of governance of formal behavior applied to the data.
  2. Do not tell management that data governance requires a technical solution. A technical component to your data-governance program will likely exist; but it might not—at least not right out of the gate. The fact is, you can’t purchase software or hardware that will be your data-governance solution. What’s more, simple tools can be developed internally to help organizations govern peoples’ behaviors relative to data. Several of these tools are discussed in details in the book.
  3. Emphasize that people’s behaviors are governed, not data. Data governance formalizes the behavior of people for the definition, production, and usage of data. The emphasis is on formalizing peoples’ behaviors, not the behavior of data. Data behaves the way people behave. Technology may help you govern the behaviors of people, but data does what you tell it to. Because peoples’ behaviors are governed, many organizations consider data governance to be a process-driven discipline. That is partially true. Getting people to do the right thing at the right time is a large part of governance. But in organizations that sell data governance as an entirely new, governance processes struggle because of the perceived invasiveness of this approach. Governance should first formalize behavior around existing processes, and only add to people’s workloads as a last resort.
  4. Emphasize that data governance is an evolution, not a revolution. As mentioned earlier, data governance won’t be completed all at once. Different organizations transition themselves into a data-governance state in different ways. Some organizations focus early on specific domains or subject areas of data. Other organizations concentrate on specific business areas, divisions, units, or applications, rather than implementing all across the organization at once. Still other organizations focus on a combination of two or three specific domains within business units using specific applications. No single correct way exists for data governance to evolve in your company. Nonetheless, I can assure you that employees will resist if you treat it as a revolution.

I hope these four messages resonate with you. Sometimes it is helpful to consider what NOT to tell management as part of how we talk to them about Data Governance.  Whether they tell you this or not, management is looking for you to educate them in what data governance means, what it means for your organization, and to educate them  in approaches that best fit your current culture. These messages may advance how management thinks about data governance.

This is just one example of the tips and techniques provided in Seiner’s book, Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success, published in September 2014 by Technics Publications.

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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.

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