Creating a Successful Data Governance Program

Eniko Tucker is an Information Management Consultant in Slalom Consulting’s Chicago office, focusing on Data Governance and Master Data Management. With over 11 years of work experience in internal auditing and data management, Eniko is helping to grow the firm’s Data Governance and MDM practice and support local companies’ enterprise information needs.

Eniko Tucker

Imagine a beauty pageant where data governance showed up amongst supply chain optimization, offshoring, platform growth, and other major contenders. Would the audience treat it like an alien creature, or welcome it with open arms and award it the crown?

Even though data governance has been around since at least the 1970s, the vast majority of today’s companies have not invested in data governance program implementations. In our estimation, only a small percentage of companies have considered a strategic initiative around data governance, and an even smaller percentage of these companies actually have a thriving data governance practice in place.

Challenges

What is it about data governance that turns companies off? There are several common barriers.

  • Many companies associate governance to government, viewing it as an unproductive, cumbersome, overly complicated system of rules and standards that are difficult to understand and comply with.
  • It’s difficult for companies to understand how governance can add value, instead preferring the old siloed mentality that maintains the status quo rather than enabling new ideas to penetrate and potentially shake up the corporate culture.
  • There is an expectation of seeing tangible results quickly in order to justify funding, which disregards the time it takes to see sizable changes in the way people think about treating their data.
  • Oftentimes inexperienced or unqualified individuals occupy key positions in data governance. Data governance is a dynamic field that demands that professionals keep their skills up to date with the latest industry best practices and methodologies.
  • In some cases, meaningful progress is paralyzed by strong alliances that push the agenda of a specific group but don’t necessarily benefit the greater whole.
  • A company may lack early adopters who embrace the vision, and it can be a huge challenge to create a workable framework with potential resource constraints or without executive sponsorship.
  • There’s also the challenge of the perception of what work really gets done. The process of creating standards, policies, and processes around governing and protecting corporate data can be invisible to broader audiences, as agreements often get made behind closed doors.

The Right Leadership

If done right, people working in data governance organizations are often the brightest and most valued contributors in the company: they are innovative, dedicated, and knowledgeable about internal processes, systems, and technologies and understand how data is used throughout their organization. They have well-developed negotiation, presentation, and communication skills. They master the art of persuasion, perseverance, and productivity. They evangelize effectively to bring about change in the corporate culture in the hopes that it will positively impact the success of the entire organization.

Undoubtedly, one of the most critical characteristics of a successful data governance leader is political astuteness; it is not only essential for the survival of the program, but also for the survival of self. Without a qualified individual leading the vision—with significant political capital and a proven track record of delivering results and bringing others along for the ride—it’s incredibly difficult for data governance initiatives to make an impact. In order to be successful in this role, one needs to want to lead the effort no matter what the political climate looks like. Additionally, data governance offices need to be backed by executives who believe in the program and will go to bat for it publicly.

Without top-down executive sponsorship, chances are extremely slim for long-term survival of data governance initiatives. Successful data governance professionals are highly regarded and sought after in most industries due to their unique combination of technical and soft skills, understanding of company operations, and demonstrated leadership qualities. There is a shortage of qualified data governance professionals in today’s marketplace who can form a bridge between business and IT and possess the essential skills needed to lead.

Benefits

While many organizations have never heard about data governance, DGO, CoE, SVT, DS, RACI, and other similar terms are becoming increasingly popular with progressive and forward-looking companies that have embarked on the path of implementing some form of a data governance program. These are the not-so-new buzz words that everyone should seed into their business vocabulary. Data governance offices (as part of corporate Center of Excellence groups) should aim at creating “Single Versions of the Truth” of their master data with the help of designated data stewards using agreed upon Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed resources.

Data governance programs are not designed to solve the problems of the aging population or the communication explosion that came with the social media revolution; however, they can help companies better understand how strategically using data—as a corporate asset, just as companies treat financial assets—can benefit their bottom-line profit.

Many companies utilize data governance initiatives to increase user trust in data, which in turn provides transparency and understanding between organizational levels and business and IT groups. Slalom has made significant investments in recent years in developing a targeted data governance offering, enabling companies to collaborate across business groups to effectively address data-related issues and make smarter business decisions. With a sound data governance plan in place, companies are able to go to market faster due to synergies in cross-sell and up-sell scenarios. Slalom’s data governance offering helps companies reduce operational costs by improving data (i.e., storing less meaningless or redundant data) and thus, improving employee productivity.

There are many other benefits to a data governance program implementation that produce tangible results, like reducing costs associated with penalties paid for non-compliance to local and federal rules, laws, and regulations. Data governance can also provide ways to generate revenue or reduce cost (e.g., by improving the quality of the prospects and customer data, call centers can benefit from reaching more potential customers with a reduced call volume and selling more products). Companies can take advantage of using email to reach their clients, which can significantly reduce or completely eliminate mailing costs.

Winning the Pageant

What does it take for organizations to consider implementing an enterprise-wide data governance program in today’s fast-paced, extremely competitive, and ever-changing global economy with so many competing corporate initiatives all promising a great return on investment? How can data governance deliver the desired benefits and shape the future of a company and its culture, rising to win the beauty pageant based on popular vote amongst executives?

At Slalom, we believe that a well thought-out data governance initiative can win the popularity contest amongst all competing project ideas (business transformation—M&A activities, single channel or multichannel marketing, outsourcing, co-sourcing, offshoring, new product development and introduction, etc.). Having seen tangible benefits from data governance program implementations with several of our clients, we believe that with a relevant, executable plan and a well-crafted business case, corporate executives would be inclined to pay close attention to this innovative new way of generating revenue, reducing managing risks, auditing costs, and even helping enforce local/federal/global regulatory compliance and privacy laws (SOX; SEC; GLBA; Basel I and II, HIPAA, PCI, AML, etc.).

Eniko Tucker is a member of Slalom’s Information Management Thought Leadership Committee. For more information, email the team at NationalIMThoughtLeadershipCommittee@slalom.com.

One Response to Creating a Successful Data Governance Program

  1. Pingback: Take control of your Tableau analytics with data governance and content management | The Slalom Blog

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