Recording requirements for success is an important first step toward demonstrating the value of a Data Governance program. Practitioners know that Data Governance requires planning, resources, money and time and that several of these objects are in short supply.
Data Governance requirements are instrumental to 1) planning for Data Governance, 2) the definition of Data Governance resources, 3) the spending of money, and 4) the allowance of time to focus on formalizing accountability for data across the organization.
Gathering requirements for your Data Governance program is not a difficult task. Consider that there are two things you will need to gather and record requirements. The first item is a list of the appropriate Data Governance stakeholders to involve in the gathering activities. The second is the emphasis of this article – the appropriate questions to ask the selected stakeholders.
There are several options for selecting the appropriate stakeholders to involve in the Data Governance requirement gathering activities. You may decide to focus on:
- people associated with a specific domain or subject area of data.
- people in a specific business unit or area of the organization.
- people that are stakeholders in a specific set of data that is included within an information system, data resource, or new “shiny” object like an analytical platform, data lake or new ERP package of the day.
- all of the members of a specific group or committee.
Provide the people you select with a limited number of digestible questions that motivate them to articulate the problems they are having with data key to their operations and assist them to state what a healthy target state of data would look like. This does not mean that all requirements that come from the questions will be actionable. But the answers to the questions will more-likely be insightful and actionable if the right questions are asked.
The questions provided below are meant to assist you to quickly gather information from your stakeholders that recognizes key areas for data-centric and governance discipline improvements.
Requirements for Stakeholder and Leadership Confidence
In this article, I distinguish between two sets of requirements. The first set includes requirements targeted at what is necessary to gain Stakeholder and Leadership confidence that Data Governance will result in improved business results for them. These requirements are focused on assuring that the results are a worthwhile investment of time, effort, and resources.
Consider asking these questions (or similar questions) to the people at the executive and strategic levels of your organization:
- In an ideal target state, what data do YOU have access to, when do YOU need it, and what do YOU need to do to leverage it?
- Follow up with … How is this different from the data you presently have and the actions you are required to take to use that data?
- What services (products) can the Data Governance provide that would assist in achieving these requirements?
- Explain the need for your Business Area to “have access to strategic data with confidence” in the context of your business operations.
- Follow up with … Which of the data you use is considered to be strategic to your operations?
- Who are the “owners” (accountable parties – definers, producers and users) for that data?
- What do you require that will give you confidence in the data? Such as documentation, certification, easy access, etc.?
- What services can the GDSO provide that would assist in achieving these requirements?
- Wrap up with this set of requirements with … Data Governance is all about improving business outcomes through formalizing accountability for data throughout its lifecycle. Some refer to this as “data ownership.” What are your expectations of what should result from formalized accountability and “ownership” of data?
These questions may be more effective if they are asked in a meeting directly with Senior Leadership and people that are stakeholders in improved governance of data. Sometimes the people that are responsible for Data Governance do not have direct access to these people.
If you are able to ask questions like these directly, it is almost always a good idea to plant seeds for the meetings by sending the questions in advance with hopes that the recipients will briefly review the topics and have an understanding of what will be asked in the meeting.
If you are not able to meet directly with these people, consider placing the questions into a questionnaire or survey that can be easily digested, completed, and returned. Data Governance success is dependent on Senior Leadership and the stakeholders supporting, sponsoring, and understanding what Data Governance can do for them. Gaining the requirements at this level are critical to achieving this best practice.
Requirements for Improving Business Outcomes
The second set of requirements are targeted at improving business outcomes for people in the organization that operate at the tactical and operational level. These are the people held formally accountable for their relationships to the data through the Data Governance program. These people actively define, produce, and use data as part of their everyday responsibilities.
Consider asking these questions (or similar questions) to the people at the tactical and operational levels of your organization:
- What are the most important aspects of data accessibility that can be improved?
- In terms of accessibility … What can Data Governance focus on that would lead to efficiency and effectiveness in terms of formalized Processes, Inventory, Authority, Auditability … ?
- What are the most important aspects of data interoperability that can be improved?
- In terms of interoperability … What can Data Governance focus on that would lead to efficiency and effectiveness in terms of formalized Process, Inventory, Metadata, Authority, Physical Integration, … ?
- What are the most important aspects of data quality that can be improved?
- In terms of data quality … What can Data Governance focus on that would add value in terms of formal Opportunity and Issue Intake, Prioritization, Resourcing, Management, Delivery … of data quality?
- Can you articulate specific opportunities for improvements in how the data you require is defined, produced, and used?
Again, these questions may be most effective if they are asked in a meeting directly with people in the organization that define, produce, and use data as part of their job. But the truth is that there are probably an infinite number of people (let’s just say everybody) at the tactical and operational levels of your organization that could participate in requirement gathering activities. It may be impossible to meet with all of them so you may want to consider seeking the second set of requirements in an incremental manner by selectively meeting with people that are directly impacted by the data opportunities being addressed.
Also, if you are able to meet with people and discuss these questions directly, it is almost always a good idea to plant seeds for the meetings by sending the questions in advance with hopes that the tactical and operational recipients will briefly review the topics and have an understanding of what will be asked in the meeting.
And to repeat from earlier in the article, if you are not able to meet directly with these people, consider placing the questions into a questionnaire or survey that can be easily digested, completed and returned. Data Governance success at the tactical and operational levels obliges Data Governance administration to know and be able to articulate the value that will come to people at these levels.
Stephen Covey made “Begin with the end in mind” one of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The same can be said for highly effective Data Governance programs. They must begin with the end in mind. The endgame for a successful Data Governance program commands that the program formally address the needs (requirements) of the organization to execute and enforce authority over data. To achieve that end requires that practitioners know what people at all levels of the organization require from the order provided by Data Governance.
Data Governance is a people oriented discipline. We all know that the data will not govern itself. Effective Data Governance programs address the needs of the organization which requires that we are effective in how we gather those requirements. I hope this article was helpful in providing questions that you can ask when gathering Data Governance requirements.
Please feel free to share how you have gathered requirements for your Data Governance program.