Where Data Governance Should Live

Determining the optimal administrative placement for a data governance program, and specifically a Non-Invasive Data Governance program, is a pivotal decision that can significantly influence its success. This critical choice often boils down to three primary areas within an organization: a specific business area, information technology (IT), or a shared services part of the organization. Each option comes with its own merits and considerations, compelling a thoughtful evaluation of the organization’s structure, goals, and existing workflows. Striking the right balance between technical expertise and alignment with business objectives is crucial in establishing an effective Non-Invasive Data Governance framework.

In this exploration of the administrative landscape for Non-Invasive Data Governance, I will share the advantages and potential challenges associated with each placement option. Whether housed within a specific business area, under the purview of IT, or administered through a shared services model, the decision-making process requires a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s unique dynamics. By examining the implications of each choice, organizations can make informed decisions tailored to their specific needs, fostering a governance approach that seamlessly integrates with their overarching strategy.

In a Business Area

Embedding the Non-Invasive Data Governance program within a specific business area brings a business-centric focus. Many people will tell you that if your data governance program does not reside in a business area, then your program is doomed to failure. I am not one of those people.

Placing governance responsibility in a business unit ensures that governance initiatives are closely aligned with the goals and operations of that specific area. This approach acknowledges that data governance is not solely a technical endeavor, but a strategic initiative that impacts business processes and decision-making.

Selecting the right business area involves evaluating which department or unit is most data-intensive or has a critical need for high-quality, reliable data. Common choices include finance, marketing, or operations. For instance, if customer data is a key asset, the marketing department might be a suitable home for data governance.

While this approach fosters a deeper understanding of business requirements, it may present challenges in terms of consistency across the organization. Ensuring a standardized approach to governance practices and data quality metrics becomes crucial to avoid silos and fragmentation.

When a Business Area May Not Be Appropriate

While embedding a Non-Invasive Data Governance program within a business area has its advantages, there are circumstances where this approach might not be the most appropriate. One significant concern arises when the governance responsibilities are concentrated solely within a business unit, leading to potential fragmentation and inconsistency in governance practices across the organization. Each department may develop its own interpretation of governance, resulting in a lack of standardized processes and data quality metrics. This fragmentation can hinder the organization’s ability to maintain a cohesive and unified approach to data governance.

Business areas might prioritize immediate operational needs over the broader organizational data strategy. This can lead to a myopic view of data governance, focusing on the specific requirements of the business unit rather than considering the holistic needs of the entire organization. The risk here is that governance initiatives may lack the necessary coordination to address overarching goals and might inadvertently create data silos, impeding the free flow of information across departments.

Business areas may not possess the technical expertise required for certain aspects of data governance, such as implementing and maintaining data infrastructure, ensuring security protocols, and managing complex technical aspects of data management. Without a strong technical foundation, governance practices might fall short in ensuring the consistent application of standards and policies throughout the organization. In such cases, a more centralized approach, potentially led by the information technology (IT) department, could be more suitable to guarantee comprehensive and standardized governance across the entire organizational landscape.

In Information Technology (IT)

Placing the Non-Invasive Data Governance program under the umbrella of IT may have its merits as well. IT departments are typically well-versed in managing data infrastructure, tools, and technologies. Having governance oversight within IT ensures a close alignment with data architecture, security protocols, and technical aspects of data management. This can be advantageous in implementing and enforcing data standards consistently across the organization.

IT teams often possess a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s overall data landscape, making them well-equipped to ensure that data governance aligns with broader IT strategies. The centralized nature of IT can facilitate a streamlined approach to governance, where policies, standards, and procedures are implemented uniformly.

However, potential drawbacks include the risk of data governance being perceived as a purely technical initiative, potentially neglecting the business context and specific needs of individual departments. There’s also a risk of the IT department becoming overwhelmed with governance responsibilities, stretching their resources thin.

When IT May Not Be Appropriate

While placing the administration of a Non-Invasive Data Governance program within the information technology (IT) department can be beneficial in many respects, there are situations where this approach might not be the most suitable. One concern lies in the potential detachment from business objectives. IT departments often have a technical focus, and if they solely administer data governance, there might be a risk of prioritizing technical aspects over aligning governance initiatives with broader organizational goals. This misalignment can result in governance practices that don’t adequately address the specific needs and strategic objectives of different business units.

IT departments might encounter challenges in understanding the nuanced requirements of various business areas. Data governance is not solely a technical endeavor; it involves understanding the unique data needs, challenges, and priorities of different departments within the organization. If the administration is too IT-centric, there’s a risk of overlooking crucial business context, which can lead to governance strategies that are not fully aligned with the intricacies of the organization’s operations.

Another consideration is that IT departments may face resistance from business units if they are perceived as imposing governance measures without a deep understanding of specific business processes. Effective data governance requires collaboration and buy-in from various stakeholders, and an IT-centric approach might encounter resistance from business areas that feel their unique requirements are not adequately considered. In such cases, a more business-oriented approach to administration, possibly within specific business areas, might be more effective in fostering collaboration and tailoring governance practices to meet the diverse needs of the organization.

In Shared Services

Administering Non-Invasive Data Governance through a shared services model within an organization can offer several advantages. Shared services often act as centralized units that provide common support services to different business units, creating a cohesive and standardized approach to data governance. By centralizing the administration, shared services can ensure consistency in governance practices, making it easier to establish and maintain standardized data policies, procedures, and quality standards across the organization.

One key benefit is the potential for increased efficiency. Shared services teams are equipped to streamline processes, reducing duplication of efforts across various business areas. They can leverage economies of scale, centralizing expertise, and resources, which can be particularly advantageous in implementing consistent governance practices and ensuring compliance with standards and regulations. This efficiency can contribute to a more cohesive and effective data governance strategy.

A shared services model facilitates cross-functional collaboration. The central administration unit can serve as a hub for collaboration, bringing together representatives from different business areas to actively participate in the data governance process. This collaborative environment fosters the sharing of best practices, insights, and challenges, leading to a more holistic and well-rounded governance approach that considers the diverse needs of various business units.

When Shared Services May Not Be Appropriate

However, challenges may arise if the Shared Services model is not well-aligned with the unique requirements of individual business units. It’s crucial for the shared services team to have a deep understanding of the specific data needs, priorities, and challenges of different departments. If the administration is too detached or generic, it might struggle to address the nuanced governance requirements of diverse business areas, potentially leading to a lack of engagement and alignment with the organization’s strategic goals. Therefore, careful consideration of the balance between centralization and customization is essential when implementing Non-Invasive Data Governance through a shared services approach.

Choosing the Right Path

The decision on where to administer Non-Invasive Data Governance should be driven by a holistic understanding of the organization’s structure, culture, and objectives. It might be beneficial to establish a collaborative model where IT and business units work together, leveraging each other’s strengths.

A thorough assessment of data needs, existing workflows, and organizational goals will guide this decision. Regular communication and collaboration between IT and business areas are essential to bridge potential gaps and ensure that the Non-Invasive Data Governance program aligns seamlessly with the organization’s overall strategy. Regardless of the chosen path, the key is to strike a balance that harmonizes technical capabilities with business requirements, creating a governance framework that is both effective and non-invasive.

Image used under license from Shutterstock

If you are interested in extending the conversation around Non-Invasive Data Governance, please reach out directly to the author through LinkedIn.

Non-Invasive Data Governance™️ is a trademark of Robert S. Seiner and KIK Consulting & Educational Services.

Copyright © 2023 – Robert S. Seiner and KIK Consulting & Educational Services

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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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