How to tackle challenges with data governance adoption

The Burr Under Your Saddle: Solutions to Data Governance Adoption Challenges

Adoption challenges can lead the data governance team on a very long, bumpy, and not very enjoyable ride. Adoption may be the most challenging problem we must solve for the longer-term success of our data governance programs. It is a complex issue given that no two organizations may have the same barriers inhibiting adoption. What is easy for one organization may be impossible to achieve for another.

Defining adoption

We are all aware of the need to define our data governance terminology, so let’s start there. What we mean by adoption does not fit the academic or literal dictionary definition which is to correct, or modify, or refit, or transform, or even makeover. Let’s consider the definition of adoption from the outcome we desire to drive. Effectively the outcome of adoption means to have all the right people in the organization, leveraging the right processes on the right data, at the right time using the right technology. We’ve all heard that mantra, right?

The simple definition of adoption for most organizations is as follows: to have another team of business and technical resources follow the governance processes established, using the supporting governance technologies we have established.  This allows us to look at adoption as an expansion of the governance program either:

  • Expanding the breath of content by implementing a new domain of data using existing resources
  • Expanding the depth of content by implementing additional capabilities for existing content such as capturing data quality rules and metrics, or certifying authoritative data sources/reports
  • Expanding the breath of the governance program by implementing a new business use case and associated business resources.

As if implementations were only that simple.

I don’t mean to suggest that data governance adoption is just a “people problem.” It’s not. The challenges facing most organizations include:

  • Adoption of data governance concepts and standards such as data principles
  • Adoption of governance roles and responsibilities
  • Adoption of the processes, standards, and best practices
  • Adoption of the technology and standards
  • Adoption of data quality process to increase the trust in data
  • Adoption of data usage practices and standards

Solutions to our adoption challenges start with the data governance strategy, or publishing data principles and building a data governance organization that includes executives and leadership from all lines of business.  Communicating the organization about the data governance program early, and often, can help to overcome many of the barriers inhibiting adoption. Data governance adoption can be made easier through communications, education, and promotion of the governance program. We have found that adoption is more successful for the organizations that actively communicate, educate, and promote the data governance program. Those are actions that many data governance teams do not do often enough.

Common solutions to increase data governance adoption

Many data governance programs start with a very limited exposure in the organization. While this can have positive considerations, it can often be the root cause of our adoption challenges. It is recommended that we assess the barriers we have in our organization as a first step in determining solutions specific to the challenges we face.

It is common that we can classify the adoption barriers and act on solutions to three areas as follows:

  1. Organization & Communications
    1. Lack of participation in or agreement of all business units in the governance program. Often the governance program starts with just a single business unit involved in the program which limits enterprise-wide involvement, communications, education, and understanding for the value of data governance. An objective to fix just one business challenge such as a new government regulation like GDPR, hinders our future ability to achieve program adoption. Obviously, each data governance implementation needs a focused scope. However, the stated objective of just a single implementation will make the adoption of a second implementation a difficult challenge.
  2. Education & Training
    1. Lack of education and training to all data citizens (all those who use data in their job) will impede the ability for everyone to understand why change is needed and how it affects them. Most data governance programs must address a change to the culture of the organization. To enable a “data driven” culture will require changes to the roles, responsibilities, processes and technology. Changes in the data usage processes and how data provisioning will occur requires education, generally bottom up education. Improving the quality, accessibility, and trust in data will require not just education but training in the processes and technology.
  3. Business Use Case & Value Understanding
    1. Lack of a governance strategy that identifies the value and benefits of multiple business use cases can paint a governance program into a corner that can stagnate adoption until the paint dries. Again, if there is only one stated objective, adoption by a second business project will be more difficult. No question, it is critical to address the highest priority business challenge first. Over the last three years, the governance industry has seen multiple new government regulations fuel governance programs and the creation of the Chief Data Officer. This momentum will likely continue into 2018 with the implementation of GDPR regulations. Yet, we have seen many governance programs stall once that single objective is met. Too many ask “now what do we do? What will be the next business unit to be included in the program? And how do we communicate the value and benefits of data governance to them”? You do not want to be the program asking that question.

Data governance adoption solutions vary depending upon the governance maturity and culture of the organization, the business use cases behind the implementation efforts, and the desire of the organizational cultural change.  Finding great champions in the business or partner IT teams will provide significant benefit for adoption. Having someone outside of the data governance team discuss the value and benefits of governance will be your best ally in the war against adoption challenges. Please recognize the importance of communications, education and promotion of the data governance program. As always stay calm and allow you governance program to prosper.



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