Non-Invasive Data Governance – Considerations for 2023

It has been eight years plus since the first edition of my book, Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success, was published by long-time contributor, Steve Hoberman, and his publishing company Technics Publications. That seems like a long time ago. The book has now been translated into five languages with two more languages planned for 2023. That demonstrates to me that there is continued and building interest in Data Governance implementations and approaches that will not be painful or threatening to the culture of the organization.

There is a bit of good news to share. I am completing a second book that will be titled, Non-Invasive Data Governance II: Lessons Learned and Perspective Gained through NIDG, or something similar. That book will also be published through Steve and can be expected in early 2023. There is a third book coming a bit further into the year with a working title of Non-Invasive Data Governance III: Tools and Templates to Implement NIDG. As you can tell … I am heavily invested in the concept of staying non-invasive.

2022 was a noteworthy year for organizations implementing formal Data Governance programs. Some organizations were very successful. And many continue to struggle. For reasons associated with the latter, I am going to focus this year-end article on introducing you, or reintroducing you, to the concept of implementing Data Governance in a way that is practical and pragmatic, efficient and effective, non-invasive and non-threatening.

The main reason I wrote the first book was to educate people that Data Governance does not have to be all about “command and control”. My impression is that people hear the term Data Governance and they run for the hills thinking that someone is going to tell them how to do their job differently than today and the impact is not going to be pretty.

In the first book, I used the expressions “recognizing” rather than “assigning” data stewards. I wrote about “formalizing existing accountability” and “the application of governance to process”. New terminology has entered my dialect over the years including the statement that “everybody is a data steward, and you must get over that fact” and that “the data (and metadata) will not govern themselves”. People are already governing the data of your organization. People are defining, producing and using data as part of their job. If these people are held formally accountable for their actions, they are stewards of the data. Non-Invasive Data Governance will assist you with moving from informal to formal accountability.

I have been involved in the data management space for many years. The first book focused on selling Data Governance to your organization such that the higher ups give the “green light” to proceed with the definition, delivery and administering of a program. The book is about putting the necessary components of Data Governance into place so that we can deliver successful and sustainable governance in our organization.

The questions typically asked by people selling the need for Data Governance in their organization are, “What will it take to convince our management to apply resources, time, money to building and operating a Data Governance program?” or “How do we get management to understand the importance of Data Governance?”

I am sad to say that there are no simple answers to those questions. And the book is not targeted at trying to specifically answer those questions for your organization. Every organization has its own way to prioritize how resources, time and money are spent. Every organization has its way to determine if data governance is important and valuable enough to pursue. Every organization has its way to make decisions regarding what will be done and what will not be done.

Instead, I offer these words of wisdom to achieve the goals you have set for Data Governance in your organization with hope that you consider the non-invasive approach as an option. A core set of Messages for Management around Non-Invasive Data Governance™ are provided in the first book. 

Do NOT Sell Data Governance as being A HUGE CHALLENGE.

If your management already thinks that Data Governance will be a big challenge, try to calm their nerves by referring to the Messages for Management chapter of the first book. Data Governance can be implemented in a non-threatening, non-interfering, non-culture changing… dare I say— “Non-Invasive” way that will reduce the challenge significantly.

Data Governance doesn’t have to be implemented all at once. In fact, most successful organizations (data governance-wise) implement their programs incrementally— incrementally in 1) the scope of the data that is governed (domain-wise and organizationally) and/or 2) the level of governance (formal behavior) that is applied to that data.

Emphasize that Data Governance is NOT A TECHNICAL SOLUTION.

There will likely be a technical component to your Data Governance program. But then again, there might not be. Most people agree that you cannot purchase software or hardware that will BE your Data Governance solution. And most people will agree that simple tools can be developed internally to help organizations govern people’s behaviors.

Technology can assist in formalizing people’s behavior. Data only behaves the way people behave. Therefore, technology may help you to govern the behaviors of people, but it won’t— by itself— govern the data.


Data Governance is typically about formalizing the behavior of people for the definition, production and usage of data. Formalizing people’s behavior, not data. Data only behaves the way people behave. Therefore, technology may help you to govern the behaviors of people, but the data does what it’s told.

Since it is people’s behavior that is 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 big part of governance; however, organizations that “sell” data governance as all new “governance” processes struggle because of the inherent (viewed) invasiveness of that approach. Governance should formalize behavior around existing processes first, and only add to people’s workloads as a last resort.

Emphasize that Data Governance is an EVOLUTION, NOT REVOLUTION.

As was stated earlier, Data Governance will not be completed all at one time. There are a few different ways that organizations transition themselves into a Data Governance state. Some organizations focus early on specific domains or subject areas of data. Some organizations focus on specific business areas, divisions, units, applications, rather than implementing all across the organization at once. Some organizations focus on a combination of the two or three, specific domains within specific business units using specific applications. There is no single correct way to evolve into your company. But I can almost assure you that if you treat it as a revolution, there will be a revolt.

I hope these words of wisdom have caught your eye and that the first book and second and third books soon to come, answer the questions you have about how to stay non-invasive with your approach to Data Governance.

A special thank you goes out to Ronald Kok (Dutch translation), Nino Letteriello (Italian), Michel Hébert (French), Astrid Gelbke (German), and Michele Iurillo (Spanish)— with more names and languages soon to be added— for approaching me and my publisher to provide this content to people around the world. I am very grateful for the interest. Start and stay non-invasive in your approach to Data Governance. Happy New Year!

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Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. Seiner

Robert (Bob) S. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services and the Publisher Emeritus of The Data Administration Newsletter. Seiner is a thought-leader in the fields of data governance and metadata management. KIK (which stands for “knowledge is king”) offers consulting, mentoring and educational services focused on Non-Invasive Data Governance, data stewardship, data management and metadata management solutions. Seiner is the author of the industry’s top selling book on data governance – Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success (Technics Publications 2014) and the followup book - Non-Invasive Data Governance Strikes Again: Gaining Experience and Perspective (Technics 2023), and has hosted the popular monthly webinar series on data governance called Real-World Data Governance (w Dataversity) since 2012. Seiner holds the position of Adjunct Faculty and Instructor for the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College Chief Data Officer Executive Education program.

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