Wouldn’t it be great if you could simply put structure around how your organization governs your data without throwing a lot of money and resources at the problem? The truth is you can. It’s all in the data.
This column describes how you can effectively communicate to management that governance already exists (to some extent), and that you can build a Non-Invasive Data Governance program around the present levels of governance.
When it comes down to it, people will perceive and understand data governance the way it is explained to them. That includes your senior leadership. People like you and me need to bring to them messages that instill confidence.
These following messages, if communicated effectively, should help management and other to understand that there is a practical and pragmatic approach that they should consider.
Tell Your Management …
If you are following, or plan to follow, the Non-Invasive Data Governance approach, these five messages are critical to calming management’s nerves and explaining an effective alternative approach:
- We are already governing data, but we are doing it informally. People in the organization already have responsibility for data. You should inventory who does what with data and provide an operating model of roles and responsibilities that best suits your organization. At some level, you will need someone with an enterprise view and responsibility for data that cuts across the silos in your organization and manage data as a shared resource. This will be our biggest, yet do-able, challenge because we don’t naturally manage data as a shared and enterprise-wide resource.
- We can formalize how we govern data by putting structure around what we are doing now. People in your organization work in operational, tactical, strategic, and support roles around data. We need to know who they are and put formal structure around who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed about the business rules and regulations associated with the data they define, produce and use.
- We can improve our data governance. Our data governance efforts can help us improve how we manage risks associated with compliance, classification, security, and business rules affecting our data. People in our organization potentially put us at risk every day when they’re not assured of knowing the rules associated with their handling of data. Our efforts to improve the quality of data must be coordinated and cooperative across business units using the formal structure mentioned above. Quality assurance requires that operational and tactical staff have the ability to record, track, and resolve known data-quality issues. Our organization can immediately improve how we communicate data by recording and sharing information about who does what with data.
- We do not have to spend a lot of money on data governance. Data governance does not have to be a costly endeavor. Depending on the approach we take, data governance may only cost the time we put into it. Data governance will require that one or more individuals spend the time defining and administering the program, but a large misconception is that data governance must be over and above the existing work efforts of an organization. We should avoid calling things “data governance processes,” because this gives people the impression that formal behavior around data definition, production, and usage of data is the fault of data governance rather than the glue that assures these behaviors are handled properly.
- We need structure. We should consider the Non-Invasive Data Governance™ approach. We must follow a proven approach to data governance that does not threaten the people of our organization who participate in the program. Data governance will require that the business and technology areas of the organization take formal and shared accountability for how data is governed. The participants in the data-governance program already have day jobs. We must add value and not interfere with what they do in their jobs. The goal of non-invasive data governance is to be transparent, supportive and collaborative. These concepts lie at the heart of the implementation of the Non-Invasive Data Governance™ approach.
At first (or even second or third) glance, implementing a data-governance program can appear to be a huge undertaking. People feel this way because data governance presents challenges associated with changing the behavior of those in the organization. The challenges become apparent because of the organization’s size and the complexities of its business, but not because of data governance per se.
But Don’t Tell Your Management …
This next set of messages focuses on getting past some of the major misperceptions people in organizations have when they consider data governance.
- 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. 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 does not have to 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.
- Emphasize that data governance is a people solution and not a technical solution. A technical component to your data-governance program will likely exist. But there might not be. 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.
- 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 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.
- 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, there are other organizations that 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.