The secret lies with Data Governance. The Chief Data Officer (or whoever the Data Czar is at your organization) needs to get past, and I mean way past, the “Why is Data Governance important?” or “Why do we need Data Governance?” questions if they are ever going to be successful czar-ing the data. Rather, the CDO should be asking “How are we going to govern our data?”
Individuals at many organizations spend large amounts of energy trying to convince their leadership that money should be invested in the formal governance of data and information. Sometimes there are multiple people and/or groups that are all pushing in the same direction. Some of these groups are successful in convincing leadership that attention must be paid to improving the value that the organization gets from their most important asset. It’s all in the data.
One may ask, what does it take to get Senior Leadership to buy in to Data Governance and to buy in to the need to apply resources for better data management? The answer may be in their belief (or not) that data is an asset, and that the data will not manage itself. Just because your organization is successful now, that doesn’t mean that you cannot become even more successful by becoming further efficient and effective in your use of data and information.
The CDO should be asking “How are we going to govern our data?”
There are many reasons why organizations decide to put formal Data Governance in place. Some organizations are told by their auditors and examiners that they need to demonstrate formality around how people are held accountable for the data they define, produce, and use. These organizations are not really being given a choice to elevate the governance of data to a formal practice.
Other organizations decide to put formal data governance in place because they have invested (or are investing) heavily in resources intended to improve what they can do with their data. Many organizations invest to improve their ability to analyze their data only to find that the data that will feed these investments is not in very good shape. So, they decide that Data Governance is necessary to feed their “big data”, “data analytics” and “artificial intelligence” investments. These organizations decide that their technological investments require a solid foundation of well-governed data.
Other organizations put policies in place to assure that their data, information, records, and even metadata (data documentation) are “owned” and “stewarded” as valuable assets to leverage in order to be fully absorbed in the information age. These top down decisions to govern the data are typically only successful when a well thought-out and practical solution is approved and followed as a course of action.
That’s right … I said approved. Which again brings me back to gaining Senior Leadership buy-in for improved formality in how the organization governs their data.
Gaining Senior Leadership Buy-In
Gaining Senior Leadership buy-in requires that the person seeking buy-in has a well thought out plan for how the organization will maximize the value of the organization’s data through the implementation of formal Data Governance. An early step is to understand that there are several different approaches that an organization can take to implementing Data Governance. These approaches go by the following three descriptions:
- The Command and Control Governance Approach is often thought of as a top-down “you will participate” approach. I call it command and control because this method of implementing Data Governance forces people to participate whether or not they understand the value that Data Governance will bring, and it is presented as a new add-on to people’s regular “day jobs”.
- The Traditional Data Governance Approach is what I often refer to as the “Field of Dreams” approach. The tag line from that movie was “if you build it they will come” and that describes precisely how a program like this operates. Policy, structure, roles & responsibilities, processes, etc. are all set up, but there is no incentive for people to play their role or follow the described processes.
- The Non-Invasive Data Governance™ Approach takes into consideration that accountability for data already exists –albeit in an informal sense– and that the formalization of accountability is based on people’s relationships to the data. If a person defines data, they have accountability for how the data is defined. If they produce data, they are held formally accountable for how they produce the data (or how the data is produced). And the same holds true for people that use data. Anybody in the organization that defines, produces and/or uses data (and that can be practically everybody or anybody) needs to be held formally accountable for how they define, produce, and use data. This takes education, training, and a well thought-out method for incrementally building this across the organization. And perhaps most importantly, this approach follows the idea that “you are already doing this” and helps people to perform their function in a way that is in the best interest of the organization.
“How” Approaches to Data Governance
Here is a bullet list of the key differentiators in the “How” of implementing Data Governance:
The Command and Control Approach
- People are assigned into roles.
- Data Governance is new to the organization – all new processes.
- You will do what the program says.
- Measure value through return on investment directly from DG.
- Purchase software tools first and mold approach to purchase.
The Traditional Approach
- People are identified into roles.
- Data Governance is a single process that can be applied in multiple ways.
- You should do what the program says.
- Measure value through the improvement in the quality of the data.
- Leverage existing tools first and fill capability gaps with new tools.
The Non-Invasive Approach
- People are recognized into roles based on their relationship to the data.
- Data Governance is applied to existing or new processes.
- You are already doing this, and formal DG will help you to do it better.
- Measure advancement from present state (benchmark early).
- Leverage existing tools first, develop tools as needed and acquire based on requirements.
This quick column focused on getting Senior Leadership past the questions of “Why is Data Governance Important?” and “Why do we need Data Governance?”. For a more detailed comparison of the data governance approaches, please visit my earlier TDAN.com articles Comparing Approaches to Data Governance and How is Non-Invasive Data Governance™ Different?. In the near future I will write about how to select the appropriate approach depending on the culture of your organization.
The Data Will Not Govern Itself
The absolute truth is that the data will not govern itself. I have been known to say the same thing about metadata. No matter how you look at it, there needs to be a formal approach and program in place that involves the “right” people in the “right” way at the “right” time to achieve data that is “right” for purpose. We, as data practitioners, need to share the “right” information with our Senior Leadership to get past the “Why” and into the “How”. It’s all in the data.
And always remember:
The Data Will Not Govern Itself!
Check out these thought-provoking Data Governance articles and columns: