Would You Know If You Were Fumbling Data Governance? Here’s Your Sign

Loraine Lawson
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Five Ways to Use Data to Be More Relevant to Customers

One of my friends is a political science professor, and he recently shared this “factoid” from a student’s paper:

Judges should follow an "originalist" approach to judicial interpretation because the Constitution has "worked for us for over 400 years" so we shouldn't change it except through the amendment process.

It makes you want to smack your head, I know.

Let’s not feel too smug. Some data governance programs are miscalculating just as badly.

Data quality/data governance expert Jim Harris penned a great piece about this today. As I read it, the problem boils down to a lot of data governance navel gazing without actually accomplishing anything that matters. Harris explains:

As Gartner’s Andrew White lamented, the success of data governance programs are too often ‘focused on intermediate metrics and analytics that don’t relate directly to business outcomes and their improvement.’ In other words, data governance, perhaps at least in part due to its name, is often focused on how well is data is governed. Whereas the real point of data governance, White argued, ‘is the improvement in business outcomes.’

It seems obvious, but it’s apparently a hard concept, I think because in part, humans are so excellent at rationalization. Of course we’re doing data governance to improve business outcomes! We’re sure not doing it for the heck of it, right? And we can prove it, even if we have to draw a maze to show how it connects.

Another human problem is at work here: being self-aware. If you don’t get the concept of data governance, how can you recognize that? As any middle schooler can demonstrate, it’s really hard to realize you don’t know something, and even harder to admit it.

It turns out that a lot of people just don’t know if they’re on the right track or not.

“… I was asked by many organizations and people in the track I concentrated on the most (i.e. Data Governance) were questions like, ‘How do I know I have a problem?’ or ‘I think there is a problem, but how do I know for sure?’” wrote CP Singh, coming off his presentation at the October Master Data Management and Data Governance Summit, held in New York.

Data Governance

He listed five warning signs in this LinkedIn post, which rightly focuses more on business indicators than IT-centric concerns. For example, the first is, “When someone says ‘data governance,’ you don’t know what that means.”

Don’t ask IT. If they don’t know, that’s a different, bigger problem. Ask your business users. They’re the real canaries in the coalmine on data governance.

If you say data governance to business users, and their eyes glaze over, well, with apologies to comedian Bill Engvall, “Here’s your sign.”

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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