Finding Long-term Success in Data Governance

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Five Tips for Easier Data Governance

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

Yesterday, I shared advice from data experts on how to find your data pain points and leverage that into a business case for data governance. Alas, that's no guarantee your data governance plan will work.


"Implementing data governance is a lesson in patience and fortitude, and requires a willingness to achieve success one small step at a time," writes Paul Bergamo, a general partner/practice leader at NewVantage Partners, in a recent piece for Dataversity.


Bergamo points out that data governance programs, just like toddlers, tend to encounter a major developmental milestone after a few years. During these "terrible twos," he writes, governance reaches a natural plateau where bad behaviors and attitudes tend to creep in and create problems.


To tame the terrible twos, Bergamo suggests data governance groups focus on five potential problem areas:


  • Overconfidence, wherein business owners or others feel "sufficiently entrenched in data governance" and ignore problem areas.
  • Data ownership, wherein the data owner is misidentified or is not identified at all. Data stewards and stakeholders are not necessarily the same as the data owner, but they often get confused. This leads to problems later on.
  • Purists, wherein an over-enthusiastic data governance committee tries to force governance in impractical ways. To succeed, he writes, governance should be a natural extension of people's current work.
  • Business value for middle management, wherein middle management is passive aggressive about data governance.
  • Oversight, wherein things change and you need new oversight as the data governance effort matures.


Bergamo offers fixes for each of these problems. One key fix to several problems is to make sure data governance is integrated with existing processes so it's not cumbersome to, say, middle managers, IT or business users.


If you're just starting out in data governance, two years can seem like a long way off, though. For advice on what you can do early on to ensure data governance starts on a firm foundation, check out this older piece by Jill Dyche on the primary and secondary success factors for data governance.


One thing I found particularly interesting in both Bergamo's piece and Dyche's article is the idea that there need to be support teams outside the data governance team itself.


Bergamo talks about needing "data governance support groups" to guide the governance steering committee through various inflection points as governance matures. Dyche says most data governance projects start with a core working group - normally around a half dozen or so people from both business and IT - who design data governance and prove to the cynical how it will help the organization. It's sort of an early strike force that paves the way for a more formal data governance committee.


When you come down to it, governance requires a sustained effort, not unlike, say, total quality management or Six Sigma. These kinds of initiatives tend to lose steam and focus, but whereas no one may miss the management theory du jour, when data governance falls off track, it'll be hard to hide the impact of the resulting data quality and accountability problems.

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