Saving a Failing Data Governance Program

ART03x - feature image - edData Governance programs tend to take a long time to get started, to gain momentum and to demonstrate measurable value to the organization. Over this period, programs often fail to sustain the level of enthusiasm that existed when the program was just starting. There are many reasons for this. Management interest wanes, new projects grab people’s interests and work group meetings cease to be efficient and effective.

The subject matter of this article is nothing I have addressed before, and I had a good time brainstorming on reasons why I have seen and heard that Data Governance programs are unable to keep their programs going strong and demonstrating value. Some of the recollection was painful.

You may be surprised. Sometimes programs lose steam because the person in charge does not have the experience to apply best practice knowledge to the Data Governance solution. While other times, even the best plans and knowledge do not garner the level of backing necessary to begin or maintain a program. In other words, it may not always have anything to do with skills of the Data Governance practitioner.

In this article, I did my best to summarize some tips and techniques for saving a failing Data Governance program. Perhaps you will see some of yourself in what I have identified here. Maybe it makes sense to look at these things before you ever get started.

This article identifies and addresses the reasons why Data Governance programs fall apart or fail to be sustainable over lengthy periods. The initial approach to developing the program has something to do with it but lack of focus on essential program components is the true villain. Check out these things to consider to assure long term program health:

  • Ways to Recognize that your Program is Dying
  • Core Program Components that Require Sustained Attention
  • Steps to Follow to Prevent an Early Program Demise
  • Ways to Extend Program Enthusiasm
  • How to Assure Program Continuity and Longevity

Ways to Recognize that your Program is Dying

One of the most important things you can do to keep your program healthy is to recognize the things that indicate that your program may not be going the way you want it to go. Some of these things may be obvious while others may be subtle signals for you to key on. The best thing you can do now is become proactive to assure that these signals never take place.

  • Data Governance is dropped as a line item at Senior Leadership meetings.
  • No one is bringing Data Governance Office issues to resolve.
  • There are competing Data Governance groups.
  • No one is accountable for Data Governance.
  • You’ve solved all of the enterprise data issues.
  • They have renamed your group something else; Not Data Governance.
  • The person in charge of Data Governance is being asked to spend a larger percentage of their time on something else.
  • Your new boss doesn’t understand Data Governance.
  • Your Data Governance Office / Team has been broken up.

Core Program Components that Require Sustained Attention

No matter the approach that you take to addressing Data Governance in your organization, there are a handful of core components that must be designed and built with longevity of their purpose in mind for your program to remain healthy. These five components sit at the heart of the Non-Invasive Data Governance framework that I wrote about in in July of 2016.

  • Roles (Authority)
  • Processes
  • Communications
  • Metrics
  • Tools

Steps to Follow to Prevent an Early Program Demise

Recognizing that your program is dying takes knowing what to look for. The components that must be sustained are common from organization to organization. Although these are important ways to save a failing program, the most important thing you CAN do is take proactive steps to prevent your program from falling into a state of disrepair in the first place. I am providing a list here of the steps that you can take to prevent an early program demise.

  • Maintain / Build Senior Leadership’s support, sponsorship and understanding.
  • Keep communications channels open.
  • Build Data Governance into people’s responsibilities.
  • Solve meaningful problems.
  • Measure and communicate your achievements.
  • Add new governing functions.
  • Continue to incrementally expand functions and areas.
  • Don’t ask for more than you need.
  • Utilize other people’s resources.
  • Keep your meetings interesting.

Ways to Extend Program Enthusiasm

Data Governance is a fascinating subject … Said nobody who is not already in the field. You were in really good shape if you were able to build a tremendous level of enthusiasm around data governance early in the deployment of your program. If people were enthusiastic from the beginning, you must have done something right.

But we all know that nothing lasts forever and the same can be said about the enthusiasm, interest, and eagerness to participate in the activities of governing your data. Therefore, it is very important that the person or people that are responsible for your program find ways to extend your program’s enthusiasm. I have listed a few of these ways and will speak more on this subject at DG Winter.

  • Keep meetings interesting.
  • Do interesting things.
  • Communicate early and often.
  • Get your internal customers to tell people how you have helped them.
  • Look at how you did / didn’t gain enthusiasm in the first place.
  • Reward people / management for good behavior.
  • Extend your pleasantries to your suppliers / vendors.
  • Make data a big thing; No, not big data.
  • Always be looking for your next opportunity.

How to Assure Program Continuity and Longevity

It is always best to learn what you can from other organizations that have been successful in the deployment of their Data Governance programs. There is a lot of information available about how organizations have been able to demonstrate value early in their program’s life. There is less information available about how those programs continued to demonstrate this value. Practitioners should be requesting information about how to assure program continuity and longevity. I am sharing some tips and techniques that you can use to assure continued success.

  • Communicate early and often. (Repeated from earlier)
  • Stay relevant.
  • Anticipate the next big thing.
  • Demonstrate measurable value.
  • Educate your boss and his / her boss.
  • Stay lean and mean.
  • Align DG with the most heavily invested projects / programs.
  • Keep people engaged.
  • Follow an approach that best suits your culture.
  • Sell, sell, sell …

This article focused on high-level bullet points associated with the key dimensions of saving a failing Data Governance Program. Perhaps you have experienced some of these. Perhaps you have experienced something altogether different.

Data Governance novices will be well-served by taking a look at the lists I provided here. Novices may want to consider being proactive when it comes to things that have cause programs to become inefficient and ineffective over time.

Experienced Data Governance practitioners will also be well-served to look at these lists to learn more details of the steps that can be taken to save their baby, their Data Governance Program. Please feel free to share below your experience with how you have either saved a dying program or brought a waning program back from the dead.

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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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