Everybody Wins When You Put Data to Work

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Five Tips for Easier Data Governance

Five steps you can take to ease the trauma of starting data governance.

Your DBAs know it. Probably your application development team knows it. And deep down, front-line employees suspect it: The data is there to make decisions by facts.


But creating a data-driven organization is hard, mostly because it requires a culture shift and company-wide involvement. Data must be cleaned up, improved and, dare we say, governed? The silos have to go and, just as we learned in kindergarten, people have to share.


Data heads have been preaching the good word about data quality and governance for years now. But it's a hard sell, in part because it does sound so, well, techie.


But now it's in the Harvard Business Review - or, at least, its blog network. So maybe that will help bring business managers down to the river, so to speak.


"To be clear, this is not - repeat not - an esoteric tech project," warn Thomas C. Redman and David Walker. "It requires concerted effort across the organization."


Redman is the author of "Data Driven: Profiting from Your Most Important Business Asset," and Walker is an IT veteran, former CIO of Aera Energy LLC, and currently working with the Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands. In a recent HBR blog post, they outline four "interlockng" steps to creating a data-driven culture:


  • Improve the data. This is where those data quality projects come into play, and it has to extend throughout the organization, they write.
  • Build "data to discovery to dollars" processes. Meaning, put data to work across the organization in ways that impact cost and revenue.
  • Invest in people. The article points out that the U.S. is facing a shortage of analytically competent managers. "Start by gathering a critical mass of these managers," it says. That's fine if you can do that, but might I also suggest companies could invest in their analytically inclined people. I think today most organizations and even entire cities (ahem, hometown Louisville, Ky.), have a culture of "the grass is greener on the other side" when it comes to workers and leaders. They look outside the organization, instead of investing in people who are already vested in their organization. It doesn't make sense.
  • "Strive to empower all with data." Don't just give data to your BI people. Give it to as many workers as you can, so everyone in the organization is dealing with facts, not hunches.


But my favorite part of this piece doesn't have to do with their advice; it has to do with this example of how building a data-driven culture transformed the workplace.


Redman asked a woman how her work had changed since the completion of a data quality and control project. She said:

You know, before we had these measurements I never had any say in my work. We'd run into a problem, and I'd ask my boss how he wanted me to handle it. And he'd tell me. A lot of times the answer didn't make sense. But I did what I was told Now I have the facts. I still go to my boss. But now we discuss those facts. And he lets me do what I think is right. I've never had so much control in my work.

That's the way work should be. And if becoming a data-driven organization can create that, then I say, "Where do I sign up?"

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