The Diffusion of Data Governance

Marty Moseley of Initiate recently blogged Are We There Yet? Results of the Data Governance Survey, and the blog post includes a link to the survey, which is freely available—no registration required.


The Initiate survey says that although data governance dates back to the late 1980s, it is experiencing a resurgence because of initiatives such as business intelligence, data quality, and master data management—as well as the universal need to make better data-driven business decisions “in less time than ever before, often culling data from more structured and unstructured sources, with more transparency required.”

Winston Chen of Kalido recently blogged A Brief History of Data Governance, which provides a brief overview of three distinct eras in data management: Application Era (1960-1990), Enterprise Repository Era (1990-2010), and Policy Era (2010-?).

As I commented on Winston’s post, I began my career at the tail-end of the Application Era, and my career has been about a 50/50 split between applications and enterprise repositories since history does not move forward at the same pace for all organizations, including software vendors—by which, I mean that my professional experience was influenced more by working for vendors selling application-based solutions than it was by working with clients who were, let’s just say, less than progressive.

Diffusion of innovations (illustrated above) is a theory developed by Everett Rogers for describing the five stages and the rate at which innovations (e.g., new ideas or technology) spread through markets (or “cultures”), starting with the Innovators and the Early Adopters, then progressing through the Early Majority and the Late Majority, and finally ending with the Laggards.


Therefore, the exact starting points of the three eras Winston described in his post can easily be debated because progress can be painfully slow until a significant percentage of the Early Majority begins to embrace the innovation—thereby causing the so-called Tipping Point where progress begins to accelerate enough for the mainstream to take it seriously. 

Please Note: I am not talking about crossing “The Chasm”—which as Geoffrey A. Moore rightfully discusses, is the critical, but much earlier, phenomenon occurring when enough of the Early Adopters have embraced the innovation so that the beginning of the Early Majority becomes an almost certainty—but true mainstream adoption of the innovation is still far from guaranteed.

The tipping point that I am describing occurs within the Early Majority and before the top of adoption curve is reached. 

Achieving 16% market share (or “cultural awareness”) is where the Early Majority begins—and only after successfully crossing the chasm (which I approximate occurs somewhere around 8% market share).  However,  the difference between a fad and a true innovation occurs somewhere around 25% market share—and this is the tipping point that I am describing.


The Late Majority (and the top of adoption curve) doesn’t begin until 50% market share, and it’s all downhill from there, meaning that the necessary momentum has been achieved to almost guarantee that the innovation will be fully adopted.

For example, it could be argued that master data management (MDM) reached its tipping point in late 2009, and with the wave of acquisitions in early 2010, MDM stepped firmly on the gas pedal of the Early Majority, and we are perhaps just beginning to see the start of MDM’s Late Majority.

It is much harder to estimate where we are within the diffusion of data governance.  Of course, corporate cultural awareness always plays a significant role in determining the adoption of new ideas and the market share of emerging technologies.

The Initiate survey concludes that “the state of data governance initiatives is still rather immature in most organizations” and reveals “a surprising lack of perceived executive interest in data governance initiatives.”


Rob Karel of Forrester Research recently blogged about how Data Governance Remains Immature, but he is “optimistic that we might finally see some real momentum building for data governance to be embraced as a legitimate competency.”

“It will likely be a number of years before best practices outnumber worst practices,” as Rob concludes, “but any momentum in data governance adoption is good momentum!”

From my perspective, data governance is still in the Early Adopter phase.  Perhaps 2011 will be “The Year of Data Governance” in much the same way that some have declared 2010 to to be “The Year of MDM.”

In other words, it may be another six to twelve months before we can claim the Early Majority has truly embraced not just the idea of data governance, but have realistically begun their journey toward making it happen.



What Say You?

Please share your thoughts about the diffusion of data governance, as well as your overall perspectives on data governance.