Not every data governance program ends in success—and that’s often because of poor adoption. Data governance can be intimidating: it requires doing things differently, building sustainable processes, and being transparent about how all of that gets done. But even if you don’t have Wonder Woman’s bracelets of submission or her lasso of truth, you can still harness your very own superpowers to make sure your data governance program is a successful one.
#1. Start by governing what matters
If your organization is like most, it’s awash in data. But not all of that data has strategic value. Before beginning a data governance project, it’s important to understand your organization’s strategic objectives, what kinds of activities those objectives will require, and how those activities will be supported through data, information, metrics, and reports. By explicitly aligning data governance to organizational priorities, you will be more likely to gain the support and sponsorship of business leaders and decision makers.
#2. Make data easy to find and use
Securing project sponsors at the highest levels of your organization is great, but you still need to sell your governance program to your data citizens–the people who use data every day to do their jobs. The best way to do that isn’t just to make data easy to find and use, but to make it easier to find and use than it is right now. That might mean implementing a data catalog that integrates disparate data sources and can be searched using real-world business terms. It might mean automating workflows and issue management so that you can finally say goodbye to SharePoint and Excel. Just make sure that the processes you put in place reduce complexity—otherwise your data consumers are quite likely to rebel.
#3. Make sure your data is reliable and trustworthy
Making data easy to find is important, but data citizens want to know the data they find is the best that’s out there. That means helping them understand what the data means and how it should be used. It means providing clear information about the source of the data and who owns it. It means giving data citizens easy access to subject matter experts. And it means helping them understand what data sets already exist across the enterprise or who has used similar data to answer similar questions. Data governance isn’t about locking data down to keep it “pure”—it’s about building processes that amplify trust.
#4. Use peer pressure—for good!
A good data governance program will provide a way for you to certify reports—so that any data user can trace the source of the report and its data back to the system of origin. When a report is certified (you should be able to implement your own certification requirements), data users are more likely to trust and use that report for their day-to-day needs. Over time, certification becomes the de facto “badge” of good data. Presenting uncertified data to leadership will carry a risk since questions about trustworthiness will arise. By implementing report certification, you can promote the use of governed data and help sustain a robust data governance program.
#5. Prioritize change management
I know. I’m still harping on “change management.” But without it, your data governance program is doomed. Still, change management doesn’t mean you’re tearing your organization apart and starting over. It means building in better communications, from the top on down, not just while you’re building a new data governance program, but after it launches. It means making some well-judged investments in training, so that data stewards understand their (possibly new) responsibilities and every data citizen understands why governed data will help them perform better at their jobs. It means implementing a support structure so that data citizens can log issues and those issues can be resolved. These are all capabilities most organizations already possess. The trick is applying them wholeheartedly to the data governance project.
Embrace your inner superhero to launch a successful data governance program. You won’t even need the cape.
During his 20+ years in consulting services, Simon helped financial services institutions design and implement data governance processes to support regulatory reporting.