Let’s assume this scenario —
Your organization has conducted an EDM Assessment.
You now have detailed knowledge of your data management strengths, accomplishments, and capability gaps.
Armed with that information, and with the organization’s business strategy and key priorities in hand, the CDO / Data Management Organization has coordinated the development of a Data Management Strategy.
The strategy for the EDM program is drafted, and it includes, at a minimum, the following elements:
- Goals of the data management program
- Specific objectives that the program is aimed at achieving
- The data scope (domains) to which the capabilities to be established, enhanced, or expanded will be applied (aka, enterprise data)
- Policies, processes, and standards to be developed for capability enablement
- Governance structures, roles and responsibilities
- Data management organization structure and operating model
- Sequence plan for implementation (typically 1–3 years)
- (Optional) – combine with target data architecture and target technology stack for an overall data strategy.
Now it’s time to ACT. Once the strategy is approved, organizations tend to launch implementation projects with great zeal, buoyed by the ‘vision of the good’ that they envisioned and sold. A sequence plan typically includes a set of initiatives to achieve, at a minimum, the following objectives:
- Fully describe our shared data, emphasizing critical data elements, prioritized by domain
- Capture robust information about the data in a metadata repository / data catalog, enabling us to trace data lineage and conduct impact analysis
- Focus on defining the desired condition of the data, and develop a strategy and capabilities to improve its quality
- Govern our data effectively, with a multi-leveled structure that assigns executive accountability, and designate domain owners, business and technical data stewards with commensurate responsibilities.
Let’s pause to give this notional organization a salute for great ideas and noble goals. Great job!
In this column, we’re going to focus on the underlying foundation of the ‘fabric’ (like a hammock) that supports success in these core elements – defining data, managing metadata, improving data quality, and governing data.
What is the greatest underlying dependency that they share? People, people, people – an informed and engaged workforce, a community of data citizens.
The typical state of affairs in many organizations is that there are many individuals embedded in different business lines, associated with multiple projects and major programs, who are engaged in data-oriented tasks. Often the business staff has extensive knowledge of the data used to execute core business processes; and the technical staff understand where the data is, how to get the data and how to integrate it – for the purpose of their project, program or analytical reports and models. However, much of this work is associated with specific systems, so there is a general lack of knowledge about shared data outside of specific business purposes and systems, and a dearth of understanding about what the organization is trying to accomplish with its data.
For the EDM Program to succeed, a whole-organization approach, and an informed and educated staff, is required to forge a data-driven culture. For example, it’s likely that a good portion of the workforce hasn’t heard about the CDO’s mandate, doesn’t interact with the data management organization, and is not familiar with data management terms or formal data management processes. In the case of designated governance representatives, even if role descriptions are well described, there is a lack of solid understanding of what these responsibilities imply. We could summarize this situation as ‘insufficient conceptual grounding.’
Why is that important? Because to carry out the initiatives set out in the data management strategy, it requires the participation of many individuals, who must understand the importance of what they’re being asked to do, and how it fits into the priorities of the organization, their business lines, and their daily work. For instance, most of the individuals who will be assigned to a data stewards group, or be requested to join a data working group, will have full time jobs. The mandate and encouragement from their executives to participate in data management initiatives tasks is a good start, but not enough. Because defining business terms, determining what metadata properties to capture, or developing quality rules is fundamentally an altruistic activity – in that their job is probably not at risk if their participation level is low or sporadic. In fact, in most cases, engagement in data management initiatives does not appear as a professional goal in the annual review.
It’s our experience that a high level of adoption and engagement is not achievable without facilitating intrinsic motivation in each individual involved. Therefore, the first foundational task of the CDO and data management organization is to help staff answer the questions: “Why should I care?” and “Why is this important?” That is accomplished through communication. The second task is to elevate the understanding of the workforce, accomplished through education, answering the question “What do I need to understand and do?” The third task is to facilitate the new understanding, behaviors, and assignment requirements through managing change, answering the questions: “How do I do it?” and “What assistance will you provide to help me?”
The data management organization might say, “We’re working hard just to get these initiatives in place and develop policies and processes, we have no time for more.” They may ask (plaintively), “Do I really have to think about everyone else in the organization as well?” Informed by our work with multiple organizations engaged in transforming their understanding and management of data, we would answer, “Only if you want to succeed now, and sustain that success into the future.”
A Three-Part Recipe – Empowering the Workforce
There are three essential ingredients to get where you really want to go, that is: everyone involved agrees that the data is important and supports the goals and objectives of the EDM Program, has the internal motivation to pitch in, and thoroughly understands their role.
Our discussion is oriented to large organizations, however, if your organization is mid-size or small, you should still consider these support pillars as essential for success. The recommendation is to undertake the analysis, then scale appropriately to suit your situation and resources.
When launching an EDM Program or unveiling the data management strategy, the CDO/ data management organization needs to develop a communication plan. The purpose of initial communications is to convey the importance of data and the data management strategy, describe the core planned initiatives, and outline the new policies, processes and standards that are targeted for development. This is aimed at multi-leveled audiences, comprising all staff that will be engaged in supporting the program and its initiatives.
Audiences include executives, business line senior managers, all individuals designated as a member of a data governance body, business and technical data experts supporting shared data stores, and program-level staff who may be asked to join a data working group to accomplish a specific purpose (e.g., defining shared business terms for a specific domain).
This initial phase of EDM Program communications aims to achieve awareness and understanding of what the organization wants to accomplish with its data assets. Executive engagement across the organization is very important in setting expectations and for encouraging the staff to learn and participate in the activities that will commence.
A set of activities to perform when developing the Communications Plan includes:
- Anticipate various scenarios that require messaging (e.g., release of policies, processes, standards, achievement of major milestones, and other announcements)
- Define how those messages should be delivered (e.g., intranet, email, town hall, lunch and learn sessions, webinars)
- Define the audiences to whom communications should be delivered, by type (e.g., what should be published / delivered to senior management, by tiers across the firm, management, staff associated with mission areas and programs)
- Establish guidelines on how much content the communications should include, organized by type of communication and delivery channel
- Determine how often communications of various types should occur
- Determine who should be the “author/sender/voice” of the communications based on subject and priority.
A recommended approach is to focus on three main communication flows – from the EDM Program, to and from the data management organization, and to and from governance groups as in the table below.
- Creating and executing on a thoughtful Communications Plan will yield many benefits:
- Enhancing the effectiveness and sustainability of the EDM Program
- Supporting an integrated operational model for the program, governance, and data management
- Increasing participation in data governance activities
- Enhancing the effectiveness and sustainability of the EDM Program
- Decreasing duration for decisions about shared data affecting multiple stakeholders
- Reinforcing consistent understanding of essential concepts
- Providing advance notice and a feedback channel for new policies, processes, and standards.
Since the data is forever, and the EDM Program is an essential infrastructure function, communications need to be sustained over time. Therefore, it’s important to gather and apply feedback from the multiple audiences to adjust communications as indicated. Offering brief surveys for communications recipients can be very helpful in collecting useful feedback. In addition, employing communications metrics will help you to hone your communication types, frequency, and audiences, such as the number of emails opened, the number of staff accessing the data management organization’s web page, the number of staff who have responded to the announced availability of educational and training sessions, and so on.
The Communications Plan also supports and aligns with orchestrating the changes that the EDM Program ushers into the organization. Enhanced data management policies, processes and standards will not only change how data is managed across organizational functions, but also lead to designation of expanded roles and accountabilities. Individuals need preparation to be able to adopt and conduct new processes and work activities.
Managing change is critical to the success of the EDM Program in transforming what is done to manage data within the organization, and to reach all relevant staff members who will fulfil a role. Change management requires and depends on:
- Effective communications program
- Active participation from leadership
- Consideration of the organization’s culture and the human factors related to change (including new opportunities, challenges, uncertainty, and anxiety about new requirements)
- Practical and effective education, enabling learning for task execution in the transitioned environment.
There is also a marketing component to change management, as conveying the benefits and advantages of change is something that must be “sold” to the community. Without a clear vision, conveyed by active executive engagement, momentum cannot be generated and confusion results. It’s important to communicate the positive aspects of change – new ways of working can be rewarding, exciting, and a learning and growth opportunity. Change can be managed successfully through planning, listening, communicating, using the right tools, and emphasizing the benefits of the change for the individuals and the firm.
The data management strategy will outline the extent of change as it impacts roles, organizational elements, and core business processes. Impacts are typically first developed as role-based personas or user stories, and then decomposed into more detailed use cases designed for the appropriate audience.
The key questions answered through an effective change management plan include:
- What do individuals need to know?
- When do they need to know it?
- Why do they need to know it?
- What is the benefit to them?
- How should we reward adopting change?
The following outlines a high-level overview of key change management activities. The overall recommendations is to ‘think it through,’ then formulate your plan.
- Define the change – To gain employee adoption and buy-in, organizations must clearly define what the future state looks like. This includes identifying what is changing, who is changing, why the change is being implemented, and the risks of not changing.
- Identify change program sponsor(s) who will be visibly engaged. There are likely many sponsors, and while the CDO clearly plays a role, it is important to have executive-level sponsors within the business lines and technology groups.
- Ensure there is a clear vision for the change to inspire staff and foster understanding of the EDM Program and the transformation it implies.
- Have designated budgets to ensure that change management is not neglected through lack of funds for a successful change management program.
- Analyze and assess the impacted audience(s), including those upstream and downstream of the processes that will change.
- Determine an impact rating (high, medium, low, none) that the changes will have on job functions, for the designated roles. Questions to be analyzed for each audience include:
- What is the current process, what does the individual do now?
- From a business process standpoint, what will be different for them?
- What will they be required to do that they do not do now?
- What is the business reason for this change?
- What is the benefit (to this role or function) for making this change?
- Ensure that leadership shows appreciation for the fact that the day-to-day work must carry on and the change work requires an additional effort.
- Communicate frequently about what’s going to happen, when, how, why, and provide modifications and updates as they occur.
- Engage stakeholders in planning the changes and solutions, in management and ‘on the ground’. Those closest to the processes will have invaluable insights, critiques, and suggestions, which are best discovered earlier in the change process.
- Provide concept education (addressed below) and specific skills training for new concepts, processes, and tasks, and develop change leaders and coaching materials to support new roles.
- Develop reward and recognition criteria, celebrating success and victory for each achievement of transitioning to the new policy or process.
- Track measurements and capture metrics as the change management program progresses, for example, the number of attendees at webinar events.
The following is an outline of activity steps for implementing a change management effort, aligned with the capability development activities performed by the data management organization as the EDM Program develops.
- Work with leadership to prioritize and develop a plan for what to take on first
- Develop a budget
- Outline the strategy steps
- Develop a realistic timeframe for all involved
- Communicate “across, up and down”
- High-level work in progress
- Communicate in layers of additional detail as more becomes known
- Provide updates to the sponsor and senior team for inclusion in their communications with their larger teams
- Create a sequence plan and revise as necessary
- Publish the high-level rollout plan for the change. As greater detail is worked out, include business areas impacted, stakeholders, training, timetables, and so on
- Arrange for education and training – for whom, by whom, what, when, with what frequency?
- Prepare materials, presentations, and handouts tailored according to stakeholder needs
EDM Education & Training
In two previous columns about EDM Education, we outlined the ‘who, what, why, when, and how’ of educational uplift for the organization’s data community. Review those articles for additional detail.
As mentioned in the description of initial messages from the EDM Program to the organization at large, the first step is to inform all relevant stakeholders about the upcoming transformation and the primary initiatives that will bring the target state into being. That fosters a foundational perspective (part of the aforementioned fabric of the hammock) that improves receptivity to new concepts and behaviors, and inculcates agreement with the organization’s direction – ‘data IS a strategic asset, and we’re going to start treating it that way.’
The next step is advancing data knowledge. We can look at this as investing in the staff’s capabilities; a worthy goal, since the organization will be expecting a great deal of engagement and your human resources are critical to realize the EDM Program’s promise. If there is a lack of understanding, there will be resistance – ‘I don’t get this, and I don’t want to do it.’
Executives sometimes want to skip this step, thinking that everyone works with data, so the new approaches and processes should be obvious. So, they may want to direct their staff to ‘go forth and do!’ The transformation to a data-driven organization, however, is not as easy as flipping a switch. We advise considering your staff as similar to your customers; your employees deliver products and services on behalf of your organization, so you need them to have the information, knowledge and know-how to improve the organization’s products and services.
The EDM Program is advised to provide education – to teach concepts and approaches – and training – to learn exactly what to do, and how to do it. Both are essential for evolving and implementing a sustainable EDM Program.
Conceptual education about data management is the foundation for learning and applying specific skills. Understanding how the disciplines of data management work together to evolve the desired target state for the organization provides the ‘big picture.’ With that foundation, training in specific tasks will be successful, grounded on a firm footing (for example, how to create a quality rule, how to define business terms, how to develop data requirements, how to review a data model, etc.). EDM education enables individuals to accomplish three learning goals:
- To expand their perspective beyond a specific area of action and influence, analogous to an astronaut’s first view of the whole earth
- To communicate effectively about data with colleagues and management, through a common conceptual framework and shared terminology
- To organize concepts and skills that they may already know and perform, but for which they haven’t yet generalized beyond a specific project scope
The EDM education should encompass a common language, explain key concepts, describe approaches and methods for carrying out data management tasks. It should be presented through the lens of implementation – why an organization benefits from implementing practices in each process area, what are common obstacles to successful implementation, and what success factors help the organization grow its EDM program. It should merge key concepts with hands-on practical exercises that will be applicable in the attendee’s job functions. EDM education should help attendees to extend their analytical thinking skills to data management planning and activities, such as participating in a data management strategy development project, organizing a data working group, etc.
A course of this type creates a cadre of informed and enthusiastic individuals who understand the purpose of the EDM Program. They are equipped to lead or be key participants in data management capability building efforts and governance tasks. Suitable roles for EDM Education courses include business data analysts, data governance leader, technical data steward, data architects, auditors, and managers leading data-intensive efforts.
The CDO and data management organization are advised to develop a role-based education and training program plan, for instance, X hours of education and training courses for data stewards, Y hours for data owners, and so on. The plan aligns with the communication and change management plans, comprising a comprehensive knowledge-building program.
In most organizations, staff members are expert in the data intricacies of specific systems, corresponding data issues, and their responsibilities. However, many have minimal awareness of the importance of enterprise-focused tasks, such as mutually determining business meaning, solving data quality issues across organizational units, or similar efforts addressed by collaborative data governance.
So, what type of education is a suitable baseline for EVERYBODY who performs data-related activities? We recommend eLearning to address the broader need to elevate data awareness and establish a data-driven culture of informed data citizens. This course should be no longer than three hours, in digestible modules and available by self-service, conveying understanding and fostering readiness to engage in important efforts. The course should encompass universal data awareness, fundamental concepts, management guidance for data-related projects, and practical approaches, methods and skills.
The intended target audience is broad, including every organizational role that works with data and may be involved in a data initiative: recognized data stewards, business data experts, project managers of IT efforts, analytics team members, data task leaders, and managers. It should include “how to” – getting started in defining business terms, determining metadata properties, defining data requirements for applications, defining requirements for acquired data, working with information technology on a project, identifying data quality issues by applying quality dimensions, developing quality rules, participating in (or leading) a data working group, and related topics.
Offering a concise and practical course to all relevant staff is an effective, bottom-up boost for staff, engendering enthusiasm and increasing willingness to participate in governance groups and data-related efforts. It will facilitate the success of the EDM Program.
The training portion of the education plan will be specific to the organization, but a high-level menu of training areas is presented in the table below.
|EDM Process Training||As data management processes are defined and rolled out, training should be provided on when, why, and how to follow the process. |
Note: Training will be needed for each new process designed for organization-wide implementation.
|Governance Training||As the organization’s governance framework is fully defined and in concert with stand-up plans, training should be developed focused on the framework, the structure and levels of governance groups, and defined roles and responsibilities.|
|Tools Training||When the EDM Program selects, or designates automated support for any or all of the following – data governance assignment and approval workflow, a data catalog, a data quality profiling tool, and a metadata repository – the data management organization should arrange training for both business and technical users, and administrator training for toolset support.|
|Specific Skills Training||When processes requiring special skills are implemented, such as data design (modeling), creating a data dictionary, developing data quality controls, populating the data catalog, etc., training should be offered to equip key participants to be confident and effective performers.|
an organization has committed to its EDM Program, a corollary is that it is also
‘in the business’ of data management education and training.
Taking time to plan
is critical in an enterprise-wide transformation effort. If the CDO and the
data management organization consider, plan, and implement these three pillars
of preparation – communication, education, and change management – the EDM
Program is well prepared for long-term effectiveness, and able to evolve along
an upward ‘spiral of virtue’ towards a true data-driven organization.
 As TDAN.com’s founder, Bob Seiner, frequently states “Data doesn’t govern itself.”