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What is our WHY of Data Governance?

By: John Walsh

November 5, 2020

Maybe it’s time to rethink our motivation for implementing a data governance program for better business engagement and a focus on value instead of control. With US elections around the corner, we repurposed the famous Bill Clinton slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid” to make the case that we may need more refocus on the value and usage of data.
One of our favorite kickoff questions with senior management and data professionals when starting a new data governance program is:

Why are you implementing data governance?

Perhaps you can ask yourself that question also? We usually end up having the following answers:

  1. Protect our data
  2. For compliance with different regulations
  3. Improve the quality of our data
  4. Understand our data and its origins
  5. Improve access to data

While all of these reasons make sense, we would argue that the core motivation for implementing a data governance program is often unclear.

Over the last ten years, we have witnessed many failures in implementing data governance. By failure, we mean being unable to get a return on the investment made.

Data governance tooling may be implemented, and the data organization put in place, but generally speaking, the business is really not engaged.

And the result of all these efforts?

Data governance is considered more of a bureaucratic ‘must-do’ than a business ‘want-to’.

And the reason for this is so often linked to the question WHY?

Frequently, the focus of data governance programs is on putting controls in place rather than on promoting the use of data.

After all, if what we are doing is not directly related to creating value for the company, then why do it?

This gap in communicating a value-driven benefit led us to ensure the following response to ‘WHY data governance?’ is clearly communicated across the organization:

Why Data Governance? Improve the usage of trusted data to create value for our organization.

When you have an answer for ‘why data governance?’, you create a statement that emphasizes usage, trust and value. It takes you away from the ‘command and control’ mindset that prevails today.

It’s a great starting point to get senior management and business on board to pull the initiative rather than old fashion push approach by a centralized data governance team.

Implementing a data governance program is a complex initiative involving a transformation mindset that is based on, and supported by, smart technology.

Getting the WHY right and communicating it across the organization is key to getting a good start.

But of course, it doesn’t stop there.

Here are our top items that we use to create ongoing success with our customers:

  1. Define the WHY with your key stakeholders and communicate it across the organization.
  2. Get a sponsor who understands the context and is not just a senior manager.
  3. Like it or not, data governance is in place even if it isn’t. Try to integrate with existing initiatives rather than ‘reinvent the wheel’.
  4. Replace the often-stagnant data stewardship approach with a more agile and self-organizing one, if the culture permits it.
  5. Strive more for ongoing progress rather than perfection.

While these points only cover specific elements of a data governance implementation, after delivering many successful data governance programs, we’ve identified them as core foundations for success.
Want to find out more about our distinctive approach to enabling data governance? Please contact us at info@datatrustassociates.com