Two Titanic Data Governance Mistakes

May 25, 2011
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Titanic In the post Getting Down To Business with People and Policies.

Titanic In the post Getting Down To Business with People and Policies. I discussed the fact that people and policies need to be on the front burner when you initiate a Master Data Management (MDM) or Customer Data Integration (CDI) program.  

Data governance (which is needed along with an integration competency center (ICC)) often doesn’t get the commitment it should. I noted that there are two bullets in white papers and marketing PowerPoint slides that are oversimplified — Executive sponsorship and Business and IT involvement.

Oversimplifying these two areas is a mistake. A big one. I’ll go into more depth below.

Executive Sponsorship

Executive sponsorship is usually interpreted to mean business executives provide funding to establish a program or buy products.

Although funding is an element of sponsorship, simply writing a check and then waiting for results is not enough. Business executives’ sponsorship needs to include organizational commitment from the executive level to the business people “in the trenches,” devoting some of their time not just to kick-off a data governance program but also to keep it going on a daily basis.

Business executives, from corporate and line-of-business groups, need to be involved in establishing the mindset that data is a corporate asset and needs to be managed just as carefully as any other valuable asset that the enterprise owns. Executives need to commit resources and time from people at all levels of the enterprise to define and manage data.

Two mistakes that often happen:

  • The task of data governance is simply added to an already overworked employee list of things to do.
  • When analysis is needed, executives’ sense of urgency drive folks to get the data at all costs regardless of data governance issues.

A breakdown in commitment causes data governance to lose credibility. It is often seen as just another fad that executives will forget when the next crisis arises. What is really needed is a commitment to have data governance be a part of everyone’s performance criteria, i.e. a measurable part of their jobs. This commitment extends all the way from the executives to the people in the data trenches.

Business and IT Involvement

Business and IT involvement is usually interpreted as IT driving the data governance process with business people called into meetings to define data.

Although IT generally kick-starts the data governance process and often does the “heavy lifting” in the program through implementation within the data integration and business intelligence solutions, the business truly has to embrace and eventually drive the data governance process.

Besides, not always having the business truly engaged means that often the business involvement is not at the right level. I refer to the solution to this quandary with my clients as the Goldilocks syndrome: “Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.”

Too often, one of two extremes happens:

  • Either executives are involved in steering committees, but aren’t communicating with the business people in the data trenches working hands-on to implement, or
  • The hands-on work is happening, but executives are not committed or are unaware of the work that is necessary to implement.

In the former case, a lot of proclamations are made but nothing gets implemented because there is no commitment to get it done. In the latter case, bottoms-up data governance starts to happen, but eventually the people doing the work are overwhelmed by the tasks and give up in frustration since their management does not share the drive to get it done.

In order to succeed, an enterprise needs to have a business-driven commitment involving time, resources and funding from the executive level down to the people in the data trenches. This commitment is needed to kick-off the data governance effort and to sustain this effort on an ongoing basis. Data governance needs to be become a portion of peoples’ job performance criteria if it is going to succeed in the long-run.  

What have your company’s experiences been with data governance?