In part one of this column, I wrote about how organizations engage their data stewards as part of their formal data governance program. I mentioned that the data stewards do not always know how to behave as formal stewards. Data governance programs must focus on engaging and empowering the organization’s data stewards in order to be successful. The data will not govern itself and requires an active steward base. It’s all in the data.
In the last column, I also described four tools to consider for a Data Governance Toolkit targeted at assisting your data stewards to improve their data quality, protection, and ability to gain insights. The column shared examples of how a toolkit can be used to activate your data stewards. In this column, I introduce four additional tools.
Tools to Manage the Rules
Almost every action data stewards take with data is managed or controlled in some way. There are rules and policy for who can access data, how data is accessed, how data is handled, how data can be used or shared, and how long data must be retained — to name a handful of ways data is constrained. These rules are typically defined to manage organizational risk. Any negligence associated with approved rules is a harbinger of risk. Therefore, data rules must be collected, distributed, and fostered among the data stewards of the organization.
There are business rule engines (software) that can be acquired and implemented to assist you with managing these rules. Without one of these products, or formal effort to govern a rule management function, the rules may or may not be documented in a way that is beneficial to the organization. A tool to formally document the data rules of the organization can be included in the Data Governance Toolkit.
The tool can provide a common structure that will be used by the data stewards to collect and distribute rules associated with the definition, production, and usage of their data. Consider that the existing rules, if documented, occur in a variety of formats and places. Knowing what rules exist and where the details of the rules can be found may be enough for your organization to start managing your rules. A tool will help you to collect the rules or indicate the best place to go to find information about the rules.
Tools to Record Data Lineage
One of the first questions people ask about data is, “where did the data come from?”. Data lineage describes source to target data movement and how the data transformed along the way. The process of extraction, transformation, and loading data (ETL) is often collected in a data movement tool where the physical data movement takes place. Getting the data movement metadata into the hands of the data analysts is a challenge addressed by many data catalogs and metadata tools as part of formal data programs.
Many organizations document data movement through spreadsheets and other desktop tools as a part of data “mapping” exercises when data is being migrated from one information system to another. These spreadsheets include important metadata about the data elements on both sides of the move (or moves) to get the data to its destination. Mapping tools often collect basic information such as field or column name, table or file name, and the direction of the data move. Manually created mapping tools also include stewardship data, value mapping, business rules, calculations and derivations and more based on the business needs of the organization. This metadata provides business value by improving levels of trust and confidence by describing where the data came from.
A standard structure for collecting data movement metadata should be included in the Data Governance Toolkit. Consistency in how you collect data movement metadata will improve the organization’s ability to ingest this metadata into a data catalog or metadata tool. Work with the business and technical stewards of the data to determine the appropriate metadata to include in this tool.
Tools That Will Enable Data Identification and Discoverability
There is a wealth of information that can be provided to data stewards that will improve their efficiency and effectiveness as they look for the data they need to complete their function. This information, in the form of metadata, includes an inventory of data that is available to them, how the data is defined, how the data compares to similar data, who can answer questions they have about the data, who has responsibility for the data, and the history of the data over time — to name a few.
Some of the metadata that will enable data identification and discoverability is found in software tools that are part of your data landscape. Other metadata will need to be collected manually by the data stewards and made available through a channel that is acceptable to the business community. Data governance programs can provide tools to the stewards that will assist them to record the appropriate information that will improve people’s ability to find and use data.
The tools in your data landscape often house critical metadata that is hidden from, or unavailable to, your data end users. Successful organizations address the challenge of unburying that metadata so it can be accessed and rationalized to empower stewards and improve how they use their data.
Data governance programs should consider providing common structures, in the form of reusable spreadsheets and templates, to the stewardship community that will assist them to gather and record information about the data that can be made available to the people of the organization, who need to find their data, make use of the data efficiently and effectively.
Tools That Will Assist With IT Challenges
The last tool I am including in these columns focuses on assisting data stewards in navigating challenges they have while working with the Information Technology (IT) department. Organizations often have formal channels for people to make requests of, or open help desk tickets with, the IT group. Organizations typically do not have a formal option for making data requests. Or the data requests are presently being submitted through the help desk system.
Providing data stewards with a tool to consistently collect and record data opportunities and issues, improves the effectiveness of a data governance program. Data governance programs thrive when the data stewards follow a consistent and formal method, utilizing effective tools to submit opportunities for the program to have a positive impact on the business.
The information collected in these types of tools may be used to formally document:
- data definition
- production and usage issues
- data quality and protection issues
- and opportunities for the organization to leverage data for improved business value.
The information can be used to measure the effectiveness of your data governance program by quantifying the direct impact your data governance program has on enabling data stewards to be productive.
In the first of these two columns, I began to address tools that can be included in a Data Governance Toolkit that will empower data stewards through data ownership, data inventory, business glossaries and data dictionaries, and data rationalization. In this column, I completed the short list by focusing on tools that empower data stewards to manage their data rules and data lineage, make their data identifiable and discoverable, and navigate the challenges of working with your IT department.
This list is not comprehensive. I am certain that there are additional tools that your data governance program can provide to activate your data stewards. Empowered data stewards are the key to data governance program success. It’s all in the data.