Data Governance: How Immature Can You Be?

No organization begins to implement a data governance program from an entirely blank slate; every organization likely has some capabilities to leverage. Determining an organization’s current level of data governance maturity is a useful and necessary first step in developing a customized plan that is both relevant and executable.  So how do you assess your maturity?  Well throw a rock in any direction and you’re likely to hit a software vendor, consulting company or industry analyst that offers a maturity model and assessment tool to support your data management and data governance efforts.  Actually don’t throw rocks, you could hurt somebody.  (Yes, we offer one too – more on that below). 

When I was the DI/DQ/MDM/DG analyst with Forrester I would frequently get inquiries from clients asking if I offered a data governance maturity model and assessment tool, sharing that they considered or tried other tools but weren’t satisfied with the options available. In reality many of these tools are useful – especially when considering the questions being asked – but what I’ve heard from practitioners and witnessed over the years is that many maturity assessments are overly complex, costly (when services-driven) or non-actionable.

Don’t expect any tool to design a data governance plan or roadmap for you (unless you’re paying consultants to do just that). The goal of an assessment should be to provide input and direction steeped in best practice that your plan can leverage.   Most maturity assessments can be valuable if you use properly – and with appropriately set expectations.  

I never got around to designing a DG maturity model and assessment tool with Forrester, but when I joined Informatica in early 2012 I immediately heard the same requests from our customers.  So our approach was to develop a maturity model and assessment tool that could deliver some immediate value and insight to data governance evangelists – without just reincarnating the non-actionable, costly and complex characteristics of other options.

The high level foundation of our DG Maturity Model is outlined in the graphic below and leverages Carnegie Mellon University’s popular and familiar Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) process improvement approach.   Clearly a 2-dimensional model like this is not meant to demonstrate all the dimensions of DG maturity – it’s meant for PowerPoint!   But I provide much deeper context and content on the different stages of this maturity model in our product/technology-agnostic white paper “Holistic Data Governance: A Framework for Competitive Advantage” and in my Data Governance Framework blog series.   

In addition, we developed a free online Data Governance Maturity Assessment tool on the Informatica-sponsored GovernYourData.com website.  I’m very proud of this tool as it offers:

  1. Simplicity.   There are only 22 questions, but those questions cover all facets of our DG Framework spanning the people, process, organization and technology competencies to consider. A relevant note – you’ll notice a number of questions assessing your organization’s experience with a variety of enabling technologies, but only 15% of your total maturity score are impacted by these responses. Data governance is only supported by enabling technology – implementing tools is not the main objective. 
  2. Flexibility.  The tool saves as many versions of your maturity assessment as you’d like.   We recommend that you take the assessment twice: once to baseline current state maturity and a second time to capture future state vision.  Users can also go back and alter any responses based on new information or improvements made in their DG journey.
  3. Contextual recommendations.  Once you complete the assessment, the tool of course will give you a total Maturity Score – which is “interesting” (but not necessarily useful).  But more important, the tool looks at both your total score and your responses to individual questions and will return custom feedback based on what to expect and what to do in your current stage of maturity, suggestions on what strengths to leverage and what opportunities for improvement to prioritize, and recommendations on enabling technologies to consider. 
  4. Something to share. Once you complete the assessment, you can save the graphic image that plots your maturity score on our model to embed in your presentations and documents, as well as a PDF version of your report so you can email or print to share with sponsors, stewards and other stakeholders.
  5. Promise of benchmarks.  Our goal is to display your total maturity scores against industry, region and company size benchmarks (maintaining privacy of course).  Once we see enough completed assessments across these dimensions to represent a relevant sample size we’ll look forward to sharing the benchmarks.

I hope this model and tool can help to provide some direction and insights as you define your organization’s data governance vision and roadmap.  I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Note: Click here for a video demonstration on how to use the tool.

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