A successful data governance program can reap tremendous benefits for an organization, including: 1) trusted, timely, secure, and easily available data for authorized users, 2) data-driven decision making, 3) being nimble to ever-changing regulatory landscape, 4) future-focused business insights, innovation, data monetization and 5) competitive advantage, cost savings, and credibility.
Excellent stakeholder engagement is one of the catalysts for a successful data governance program. Stakeholders are one of the most important pillars of a data governance program and engaging them early and actively can be very rewarding, although not an easy task.
Once, I asked a key stakeholder what keeps them actively engaged in a program. The answer came quickly: “Right attitude, right skills, solid experience, right people involved at the right time, and for the right amount of time. In addition, collaboration and communication flourishing between the several teams involved in the program that may not have worked with each other before and showing great collective results continuously.” Spot on. I have explained all these in detail below.
If you are a new data governance leader, just started your program and would like to know how to engage stakeholders actively or are struggling to get your stakeholders to engage in your data governance program, read on.
Here are some tried and tested tips for activating stakeholder engagement:
Identify the Right Lead for the Program
This often makes or breaks the program.
Remember this quote by John C Maxwell: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” A Data Governance Program Lead is like a linchpin to the program. It is important to hire a lead that is likely to be highly engaged in the program themselves, knows the subject but is curious to learn continuously, a good listener, has a positive mindset and is results oriented. The lead’s data governance skill set is obviously important, but secondary to the vibe they bring to the program.
Obtain Executive Sponsorship
As we all know, when senior leadership sponsors and supports a data governance program, it gives a jumpstart to stakeholder engagement than otherwise. Executive sponsors help ensure that the program goals align with the business strategy, own the vision, obtain funding, secure resources and provide guidance. This in turn attracts and engages the right stakeholders. However, you will not always have the luxury of executive sponsorship. If that is the case, you would want to depend on the support of senior leaders a level (or two) down and work your way up by showing the results that matter to them.
Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration
Identify the right stakeholders for your program. Having someone with vested interest in the success of your program is the key, but having one with a collaborative mindset is the “go-to trait” here. If several stakeholders fit the bill, choose the ones that add a positive vibe naturally. This helps with bringing the other stakeholders into the mix and building a strong team that moves forward as one team and with one common goal.
Show Genuine Interest in Understanding the Pain Points
Be genuinely interested in understanding the challenges of your stakeholders and find that common thread to bring them together. Then, secure some first, quick and easy wins. Use the help of interactive and engaging survey tools to understand and baseline the gaps and challenges. After that, target the first few high/medium value and low effort deliverables. This will give some time back to the stakeholders and create confidence and interest in the program to move forward. It will also help with establishing trust, which is a key ingredient for active stakeholder engagement.
Keep the Jargon Simple
Not everyone knows, understands, or is interested in data governance. Train your stakeholders on data governance concepts and its importance using interactive learning tools. Use simple terms, real world examples, and success stories to help them understand what it is, why it is required, and how it is done. Currently, more and more organizations are showing interest in adopting newer approaches like Data Mesh. The Data Mesh approach requires business users and stakeholders to be more engaged in the program than in the traditional approaches. So, make sure you are building the required data literacy and training programs using easily digestible jargon.
Explain the Vision, Roadmap and WIIFM
To ensure active stakeholder engagement, have a clear vision and roadmap for the program that resonates with the stakeholders. Explain clearly what is in it for them (WIIFM): for example, being able to quickly respond and align to new/changing regulatory requirements, no more massaging of data downstream for operational reporting, increased trust in data, elimination of a parallel database that they may be maintaining, save on time, cost, resources, etc. Ask your stakeholders to include the work that will be done by them as part of the program in their official annual goals and objectives. This helps ensure proper time management and expectations management, which in turn will help with greater engagement.
Establish a Clear Data Governance Structure
Establish a governance structure with optimal number of governing bodies and clear data roles and responsibilities. Often, you will have stakeholders on the program representing different areas of the business, product lines, entities, functions, etc. It is important to establish a simple, solid, and effective framework that will work for everyone. The clearer the framework, the better the engagement.
Make it Fun!
Data Governance does not need to be a serious topic. Read this article by Robert S. Seiner to learn how to gamify governance, make stewarding something people want to do, create friendly competition, and provide rewards and recognition.
Partnership Rather than Authority
Most people think of Data Governance as exercising authority, but I like to think of it as more of a partnership. This promotes a sense of belongingness, collaboration and “we are one team” mindset.
What Caught Their Attention Will Not Keep Their Attention
Show the return on investment (ROI) by way of continuous improvement and various metrics that measure the success of the program. No matter how many engaging activities are done, if stakeholders do not see continuous improvement and communication of the same, you will slowly lose them. So, ensure there is a good and common understanding / agreement on the data governance program success metrics, baseline, improvement and communication of the same. Find the right frequency and modes of communication that work for your stakeholders and adhere to the same.
I have used all these strategies to secure strong stakeholder engagement and successfully establish several enterprise and domain data governance programs ground up. All the best with your data governance program! Let me know which strategies have helped you with your program to engage your stakeholders to drive successful implementation.