A question was raised in a recent webinar about the role of the Data Architect and Data Modelers in a Data Governance program. My webinar with Dataversity was focused on Data Governance Roles as the Backbone of Your Program. The person asking the question shared their opinion that people in these roles must play a large role in an active Data Governance program.
My response to the question was that the architects and modelers play the role of partners of the program and that their knowledge, experience, requirements, and bandwidth must be successfully leveraged in that capacity.
The question prompted me to provide a description of the Data Governance Partner role and several examples of partners in action. Let me start by describing where the role of the partner fits into my overall Operating Model of Roles & Responsibilities.
The Operating Model of Roles and Responsibilities
I share a Data Governance Operating Model of Roles & Responsibilities (described in an article from several years ago and displayed below) that I update as needed, and use repeatedly to address client opportunities. The most recent article link does not elaborate fully on the role of the Data Governance Partner.
The model includes several levels including the executive, strategic, tactical, operational and support levels. The Data Governance Partners appear on the left side of the model which are reserved for support level roles and activities including the partners, the role of the person that is the Data Governance Administrator (lead or manager), and the role of Working Teams that are formed to address opportunities and issues that require formal governance.
Data Governance Partners are functions in the organization that already focus on governing, although they may not be formally labeled as governance functions. For example, the Human Resources function already governs the activities of employees and staff. The Legal function already governs the lawful matters of the organization. The Project Management Office (PMO) already governs the activities of projects. Functions like these do not have to be labeled as “governance” but they all focus on the executing and enforcing authority over something.
The existing levels of governance performed by these functions do not have to replicated by the Data Governance function. In fact, existing levels of accountability by these functions can be leveraged as part of your Data Governance program if your mission is to stay non-invasive in your approach.
Examples of Data Governance Partners include:
- Information Technology (IT)
- Information Security
- Internal Audit / Legal
- Human Resources
- Corporate Communications
- Project Management Office (PMO)
- Change Management Office (CMO)
The rest of this article will focus on the role of the Data Governance Partner and how each of the examples shared above can be considered, already, as partners of your data governance program.
“The existing levels of governance performed by partner functions
do not have to replicated by the Data Governance function.”
Description of Data Governance Partner Role
The role of the Data Governance Partner is, purely stated, to do their job. This sounds simple and understated, but the truth is that this modest fact lies at the heart of the role of the Data Governance Partner. The Data Governance Partner already has a function which is not dictated by the data governance program.
However, the actions taken by the partners in their regular function can benefit from implementing effective governance. And the opposite is also true. The partner functions can often directly benefit from working with the data governance program. Let’s walk through each of the Data Governance Partner examples I shared above.
Data Governance Partners
From my experience, the following departments have participated in data governance programs in the role of the Data Governance Partner:
Information Technology (IT)
The Information Technology department is considered to be the most important partner of the data governance program. In fact, from time-to-time you will see the program reside in IT. There are some pundits that will tell you that a data governance program located within IT will always fail. I am not one of those pundits.
When I am asked if data governance should reside in IT or in a business area, my answer is always … “Yes.” Your program needs to reside somewhere. Programs in IT that focus on IT for IT’s purposes are destined to fail. Otherwise, programs that focus on the needs of the business can reside anywhere in the organization. The same holds true for data management.
The role of IT is to do their job. I started this article by focusing on two specific roles within IT – that of the Data Architect and the Data Modeler. These roles are very important when it comes to the technical governance of the data architecture and the governed definition of modeled data. The Architects and Modelers are likely the IT roles that are most focused on the data of the organization. There are, of course, many roles in IT and they all are involved in the operations of a successful IT department.
Successful IT operations are important to the success of a data governance program. The data governance function should leverage the fact that IT already has a function which is not dictated by the data governance program. IT is the most important Data Governance Partner of this set. Organizations that do not leverage the knowledge, expertise, and management of IT to further their program are doing themselves a great disservice.
In the future, I will write an article that will extend the understanding of the relationship between the data governance program and Information Technology. Please reach out to me through the newsletter if you are interested in discussing where your program should reside, or how data governance relates to IT in your organization.
Information Security is a governing practice of protecting data and information by mitigating risks. Information Security is often a part of a greater information risk management function and typically governs against the unauthorized or inappropriate access to data. This function focuses on executing and enforcing authority over data access by setting guidelines for who can access the data and granting authority to those individuals and groups. Through its function, Information Security records and manages all activities and records a significant amount of information (metadata) about who has access to what.
The data governance program also has an interest in knowing who has access to what data. Data governance also has an interest in formalizing the person that has the accountability for classifying the data. Data governance is actively involved with documenting and formalizing the responsibilities of the person granting permission for people and groups to access the data. Data governance takes a keen interest in making certain that the people who work with sensitive data know the rules associated with handling and securing the data.
The interests of Information Security and Data Governance Program overlap. These functions are partners that can benefit greatly by communicating effectively and leveraging each other’s knowledge and experience. Information Security plays the role of a partner in successful Data Governance Programs.
Internal Audit / Legal
The Internal Audit and Legal departments can certainly be partners of your data governance program. I have been known to say to clients that “the auditors are friends of the program” only to be shut down often by people at clients that make fun of that statement (“maybe they do not realize that I am speaking about internal auditors). The purpose of Internal Audit is to examine finances and provide management controls systematically, purposefully, and independently. People auditing from inside the organization typically have a complete understanding as to what external auditors will be “looking for” when they investigate your organization.
Internal Audit, when engaged as a partner of your program, can provide an unbiased opinion of the program’s strengths and weaknesses. Working with Internal Audit can help a data governance program to proactively avoid issues and reactively respond to issues. Internal Auditor are good Data Governance Partners.
“The Data Governance Partner already has a function
which is not dictated by the data governance program.
The Legal department may also be a partner of your data governance program. Legal is typically asked to review contracts, policies, purchase agreements (important when considering the acquisition of tools like data catalog), and other important documents. Legal can also influence other aspects of the program including roles and responsibilities, charters, and plans, and members of Legal also participate at the strategic level of the program (Data Governance Council).
Legal and Internal Audit are also definers, producers and users of data calling for them to partner with data governance as stakeholders and stewards of the data they consume. Legal and Internal Audit must be considered Data Governance Partners.
The Human Resources department governs aspects of employment, such as compliance with labor law and employment standards, interviewing, administration of employee benefits. Human Resources is typically accountable for organizing employee data and most aspects of recruitment and termination. The HR department serves as the link between an organization’s management and its employees.
Human Resources has a relationship to the data governance program in several ways. HR staff are stakeholders and stewards of critical data that must be protected. HR’s data must be of high quality and documented to enable the department to analyze and assess how to improve employee relations and to bring out the best work ethic of the employees.
Just like HR, the data governance function is all about the people of the organization and getting them to behave in the appropriate manner when it comes to defining, producing, and using data. I define data governance as “the execution and enforcement of authority over the management of data” and I define data stewardship as “the formalization of accountability for the management of data.” These definitions are people centric as governance stresses that employees are expected to follow rules and guided or standardized behavior. Failure to follow rules bring consequences and the HR department will most likely be involved in any disciplinary action that an organization takes against its employees due to lack of governance and stewardship.
Human Resources may not be the first group you think of when trying to identify your Data Governance Partners. However, the HR department plays a key role in all-things-employees and data governance has a direct impact on employees. I consider Human Resources to be a logical Data Governance Partner.
The Finance department of your organization plays an important role as they govern all matters pertaining to management, creation, and study of money and investments. Finance governs the use of monetary resources and the actions that managers take to increase the value of the organization to the stakeholders and shareholders. The actions Finance take must abide by their industry’s compliance and regulatory rules and the Finance department typically manages reporting and auditability. Finance, most likely, was one of the first parts of the organization to formally govern data as Finance departments were one of the earliest adopters of data governance best practice.
Although not all organizations make the same choices, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is often considered the data governance program’s Executive Sponsor (ultimately accountable for the success of the program). Other C-level positions that often sponsor data governance programs include CDOs (data), CIOs (information), CRO (risk), and COO (operations). The chances are, if you are reading this article, the Executive Sponsor of your data governance program is the person at the top of the Finance department.
Not matter whether the CFO is your data governance Executive Sponsor or not, compliance and regulatory controls require governance. Reporting and auditability require governance. People in Finance are stakeholders and stewards of critical data and are often the first people in the organization to recognize the importance of formal governance. You may want to consider including your Finance department as an effective Data Governance Partner.
Your Corporate Communications group is an important partner to your data governance program. This group is often overlooked as a partner but must be considered for the value they can bring to your data governance program. In terms of data governance, communications specialists can focus on the message being delivered and how to deliver the messages. Organizations know that communications play an important role in the program as they focus on improving data literacy and getting people to understand the role they play as stewards of the data.
Delivering a data governance communications plans is a critical deliverable of many of my client engagements as my clients (with my encouragement) recognize the importance of effective interactions as a critical piece of program success. Communications plans focus on orienting people to data governance, onboarding people into their governance role and ongoing communications (often referred to by me as the Three Os of Data Governance Communication in this 2013 TDAN.com article).
The people who have responsibility for your data governance program may be good communicators but the people in your Corporate Communications group are specialists in this art. Leveraging their knowledge and ability to deliver an effective message about data governance requires that they understand the purpose and focus of your program so that they can add value and become a great Data Governance Partner.
Project Management Office (PMO)
The Project Management Office (PMO) governs the management of projects. Sounds like a cheeseburger definition (“a burger with cheese”) but it is true. If your organization has a shared services PMO function, they may be asked to manage the process of planning for and delivering your data governance program. By itself, this demonstrates that you are partnering with this part of the organization. This partnership typically lasts for the duration of the project activities. Once a program becomes operationalized, the PMO typically moves on to their next project to manage.
A support role that is not the topic of this article, Data Governance Working Teams often focus on addressing specific opportunities or coming up with solutions to data quality issue (among other things). The activation of working teams often results in projects themselves – focused on the opportunity or the issue being addressed. If these actions require project management, you will find yourself partnering with your PMO beyond setting up the program. The PMO is a perfect Data Governance Partner.
Change Management Office (CMO)
If your organization has a Change Management department or office, they are most likely responsible for governing how the organization prepares, supports, and helps individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change. Data governance requires many changes across the organization including an organizational shift to more formalized data, roles, processes, communications, metrics, and tools. It is best practice to leverage people in the organization who are skilled at change management as Data Governance Partners when delivering your data governance program.
Data governance programs are only successful when the culture is adjusted or changed to recognize the value of data, and when steward accountability for data is formalized. This formalization is a significant change for many organizations. If you have a CMO or similar department in your organization, you may want to consider including them in your list of Data Governance Partners.
Partners Are Not a Group
The departments mentioned above that can be considered Data Governance Partners are not a group. Organizations that recognize partners as part of their program, leverage the expertise and practices of people in the departments when, either the program or the partner, can benefit from working together.
Most often, the relationship between the program and the partner is a one-on-one relationship, but it also makes sense to engage multiple partners together when it is necessary. Partners do not band together in a group, but they play a vital role in the success of the data governance program.
In this article, I detailed the support role of the Data Governance Partner from my Non-Invasive Data Governance Operating Model of Roles and Responsibilities. Data Governance Partners are departments in your organization that are already governing important aspects of your business. These departments are not labeled as “Governance” groups although, as I indicated throughout the sections above; these groups were governing long before a formal program (and department) was put together to govern data.
It makes sense to leverage the expertise of others to extend the capabilities of your data governance program. I hope this description of the Data Governance Partners was helpful for you.