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Data Governance Business Case: a Journey Begins With the First Step

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Data Governance Business Case

Many of you may not want to hear this, but the first step you may need to take in your data governance journey is to build a business case for your data governance program. It is our experience that in heavily regulated industries such as Financial Services, business cases have not been needed to begin the data governance journey. Time is of the essence in those industries. Thus they often get started with just a very high-level data governance strategy. However, for the rest of us, we will be asked to build a data governance business case to define the benefits for the organization.

A business case may sound like a significant effort, yet it can be quick and has significant longer term value for the data governance program. The data governance business case establishes the direction and priorities as well as the benefits for the program. It should establish the high-level understanding and communications for the business benefits the governance program will seek to achieve (use cases), who will be involved (resource types), where governance disciplines will be applied (processes in the use cases), and the economic value for applying governance to achieve those outcomes.

Many find that building the business case is exciting as well as rewording. After all, how many times do you get the opportunity to create such an important strategic direction for your organization? This is generally once in a career.

We start the data governance business case by gathering together a cross functional team. An effective team should be a mixture of executive, managers, and data analysts from across the organization. This will provide resources with the experience and understanding to create the business use cases. Ensure that you have experienced resources from finance as well. They will be invaluable in building the details for the financial cost and value template.

I advise that the team be comprised of everyone that will be the final approvers of the business case. There are a number of reasons for this recommendation. The obvious are to solicit the recommendations for:

  • The business use cases, priorities, and outcomes for data governance
  • The recommendations of processes and resources for each use case
  • Agreement to the risks, costs, and values
  • Organization communications and initial education for data governance

The critical part is gaining concurrence on the business benefits that governance will achieve for the organization. Your use cases form the foundation of the business case.

Use Cases or Outcomes of Data Governance

The business use cases for data governance are often difficult for organizations to describe. I recommend that the team first identify the challenges they face around data management. Once we understanding our challenges, it is easier to agree and describe business solutions. Our use cases should be described in terms of business benefits rather than IT infrastructure objectives. Some examples of use cases are:

  • Improve issue management & data remediation cycle-time
  • Improve data quality definition, data quality processes, and quality dashboard for critical data
  • Increase knowledge of and access to authorized data sources for business usage
  • Improve the effectiveness and usage of reference and master data management to reduce operational data maintenance costs
  • Align business terminology, critical data elements, and big data for analytics improvements and reporting consistency
  • Define processes for the certification and attestation of executive and regulatory reports
  • Improve the identification of data security, privacy, and retention processes to improve the trust of critical data

3 Building Blocks of a Data Governance Use Case

For each use case, the team needs to build a financial template containing the 3 building blocks of:

Business Risk (for doing and not doing data governance)

  • Identify and prioritize the business risks (hint: often risk has the greatest weight)
  • Measured in aggregate as High, Medium, Low

Business Value (benefits for data governance)

  • Identify the business value, tangible and intangible
  • Often the most difficult for us to quantify thus we have to identify assumptions that we have made to identify the benefits

Costs (current and future operational and capital costs for data governance)

  • We understand this component the best
  • Measure current state costs against future state costs
  • Financial templates that present value versus cost are the desired outcome

Deliverables of the Business Case

Your data governance business case may have 3 core deliverables such as the following:

  1. A document describing each business case, the business benefits for each, the processes and organizations impacted in each case, as well as the assumptions used to determine the benefits of each use case
  2. A financial template used to derive the benefits for risk, value, and cost of each use case
  3. A presentation for communications and education of the business case

Building the Business Case

There are a few steps that will be necessary to achieve our business case deliverables. These may be as follows:

  • Create a plan and schedule for the overall business case
  • Create a financial template that will be used for each use case. Solicit your finance team to assist with the template. Get a senior member of your finance organization to be actively involved with the business case
  • Identify the processes and type of resources involved for each use case
  • Identify tangible and intangible benefits (value) for each use case
  • Estimate costs for each resource type in each process today & the anticipated future equivalent costs
  • Estimate the costs for technology today & future technology costs, including capital, operating costs, start-up costs, professional services and education costs
  • Gain acceptance of the financial model & the business case deliverables

Recognize that the effort is not finished with the acceptance of the business case. The team needs to ensure that the financial funding is approved and allocated so the data governance team can be operational and engaged. Taking the first step is an exciting step in your journey towards data governance excellence. Collibra is here to help you. Take a deep breath, stay calm and allow your data governance program to prosper.

And if you’re wondering whether or not you’re ready for data governance, read my prior post on data governance readiness.


Lowell is responsible for directing thought leadership and data governance advisory services for the Collibra Customer Success team. He has been a practitioner and executive in the data management industry for three decades. Lowell is a co-author of two books, a columnist and frequent conference speaker, as well as a contributor to the DAMA-I Book of Knowledge (DMBoK).