Thursday, July 15, 2010

Data Governance - What's your Focus?

In this segment, we’re going to start moving from “what is” to “how to.” It is important to note that while a generic definition like the one we provided in our last segment is important, it is just as important to re-define data governance in terms that are specifically relevant to your organization’s needs. However, before you can write that definition, you must first identify the perspective from which you’re going to build your data governance program. This is called your focus.

The focus is most easily identified when you know the burning imperative that led you to embark on this journey in the first place. Remember, this only the starting focus. Over time, you will expand you focus to include other issues as they arise or as you have capacity to address them. Knowing your focus allows you to create a much more specific “tailored” definition of data governance that is immediately understood and recognizable. We say “recognized” because while you may know all of the benefits of DG, your customers and senior leadership probably don’t share that understanding. Remember, you may like talking DG over beer and pretzels, but you are definitely in the minority there. Identify a critical issue that you can help solve with Data Governance and build your program around that. This will help with communication, strategy and buy-in.

Some of the more common reasons company’s implement Data Governance include:
  1. Business Intelligence
    Business intelligence and enterprise reporting depend on quality data. Without quality master data, for instance, consolidated reporting across IT systems, business units and regions becomes cumbersome at best and impossible at worst.
  2. Master Data Management (MDM)
    Organizations are constantly struggling with managing the quality of their master data. They often throw technology at the problem only to find out within a short time (6 to 12 months at the far outside) that technology, while important, is not the solution. Process is what is most often missing or incorrect. Data Governance creates the foundation for good process management. In fact, as often as not, the processes associated with MDM are managed within the DGO.
  3. Data Stewardship
    Data Stewardship is an aspect of Data Governance and it is a common approach for implementing the DG program. Data Stewardship is the execution side of DG and is a critical element in any successful DG program. Frequency or requests and response time for data requests often require that a host of different people be able to manage different data elements and/or their attributes. Data Stewardship provides them a controlled means to do this with process, workflow and, often, technology.
  4. Risk Management/Compliance
    Regulated organizations are always concerned about compliance with the requirements of their particular regulators. Unfortunately, it is only after a serious audit failure that some organizations turn their attention to Data Governance.
  5. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) / Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
    Those interested in creating SOA’s will quickly find that they must first clean up their data and the processes associated with managing it (i.e. keeping it clean and organized). They will also find that the policies regulating the creation, consumption and management of their data are as critical as the technology and development standards set forth by SOA programs. In short, SOA cannot be successful on a large scale without DG.

So, what is your focus? You should stop and think about this. Maybe it’s on the list above. Maybe it’s not. Whatever it is, write it down and repeat it often when you work with your customers. Make sure that everyone knows and agrees with it. It will become the cornerstone of your initial campaign to secure buy-in and understanding. When you have a good focus – one with which everyone agrees – buy-in will be easy and people will want to help you build your program.

Now, I know it’s tempting to say, “Ike, I choose all of them.” At first glance, this sounds like a sure win, right? If your business has said that all of these issues exist and that Data Governance will solve them, then you’re sure to be a winner. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. While it may be true that you have all of those problems – and most of you do if you don’t have a Data Governance program – you can’t solve them all at once. Addressing too many problem areas will cause you to lose of focus and fail. So, pick one (or two) and focus on those to start. Once you establish credibility, you will soon find people knocking at your door asking to work with you. Build rapport and credibility through small successes viewed by senior leaders and influencers as vitally important. Your organization will thank you for it and you will be successful because of it.

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