The Data Stewardship Approach to Data Governance: Chapter 2

Published in April 2006

Editor’s note: Following are links to all of the articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9 and Part 10

The Data Governance Program Team – Responsibility

If the team of individuals implementing data governance at your organization (let’s call them the Data Governance Program Team) expects the business operational units and functional areas of the enterprise to quickly and easily accept the control and follow a governing methodology defined by the Program Team, the chances are that the team is misguided. Data governance is often resisted by business areas and remains painful to implement until the Program Team has demonstrated benefits to the business areas. Data governance must be a focused-cooperative effort between the business areas and the people guiding the data governance ship until the control (“authority over the management of data”) can be entrusted upon the Program Team.

If the team of individuals implementing data governance at your organization expects that the entire organization will follow the exact same methodology for managing data, the chances are that the team is also misguided and that data governance will not be adopted in that style.

The chances are that your organization has some data management style whether that includes cross-business area management or not. Even the most decentralized process still has some order (as long as there is a process). For example — a stand-alone data mart may already have included in their plan (let’s hope) that they will identify business requirements, analyze and define data needs, design the database, build out reports, … and so on. The process they follow MAY or MAY NOT be the same process that is followed by their colleagues that work on the claim system, or the loan data warehouse, or the database being managed by the group in Memphis or Calgary. Chances are a lot of these groups already follow THEIR own processes. There may, in fact, be some cooperation of methodology across systems and groups. This doesn’t always happen.

It is fool-hardy to think that the Data Governance Program Team (whether mandated or not) can control all the processes and methodologies of even a medium size (hundreds of people) organization. There are simply too many groups of people that would need to be controlled. How will you do that? Who has the authority to tell them that they have to follow the control of the Program Team? Does the team have the required level of executive support and/or the confidence of the business and functional areas that they know what they are doing? This doesn’t always happen either.

The truth is that the Data Governance Program Team should want to work with all of these groups and should want to know what processes these groups are following, where they are strong, where they can be improved, basically just know that their data is being managed rather than not being managed. It is the responsibility of the Program Team to use this information to work with the groups to improve the quality of cross-business data definition, production and usage. By becoming knowledgeable in how data is being managed by these groups, the Program Team along with the Data Governance Organization can monitor the activities of each of the business and application areas.

In many organizations, it is the responsibility of the Data Governance Organization (solely made up of business representation) to decide if the business areas and/or technical areas across the company are acting in the best data-oriented interest of the enterprise. The Data Governance Organization members are the ones who should have the authority to make data-oriented decisions based on the best interest of the enterprise.

The Data Governance Organization – Authority

Let’s talk about the Data Governance Organization for a minute. The Data Governance Organization typically consists of a Council (or Board) of representation from each business and functional areas, the individuals (or small groups) within the company that are responsible and accountable for the “enterprise” (domain) orientation of data (this responsibility should not be minimized!), the individuals within each of the business and functional areas that are responsible for coordinating the activities of the data stewards (the stewards often are uncertain as to when/how/if to get involved in data oriented activities thus requiring the role of a coordinator), and last but not least the data stewards themselves. Notice that the Data Governance Organization (as described here) does not include information technology (IT) representation unless the data that is being governed is data that is defined, produced and used by IT. The topic of the Data Governance Organization will be covered in more detail in a future article in this series. Please contact me if you want to discuss this before that article is written.

By utilizing a Data Governance Organization, in essence, the business is managing the business. Typically, the Data Governance Council of the organization (as described above) has the authority while the Data Governance Program Team has the responsibility for governing enterprise data. When this happens, the question of the “right” place organizationally for the Data Governance Program Team to belong becomes almost moot.

The Data Governance Program Team should try to support whoever they have the bandwidth to support — This means they should support (or try to support) the data-related compliance activities, the data-related risk management activities, the master data management activities, the test data sanitization activities, the common data language activities – this is just the start. What about data mart activities, data modeling activities, data this & data that activity? The more you go search across the company for data activities that can use the assistance of governance, the more you will find. I guarantee it.

Holy cow – How can the Data Governance Program Team of n people support all of that? The truth is that it can’t at least not all at once and not if they try to centralize the processes of how people do stuff. Thus the need for this article explaining that data governance itself is not a methodology. Beware of companies that tell you that they have a data governance methodology and that everyone should act the same way (controlled). Data Governance is NOT a methodology. Data governance is the execution of authority over the management of data assets. Utilizing the Data Governance Program Team and the Data Governance Organization to provide that authority is a critical success factor of implementing data governance programs.

Copyright © 2006 Robert S. Seiner

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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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