Data Governance – Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Data governance supports many different business objectives, in areas such as cost control and risk reduction,  enabling advanced analytics to support better decision making, driving more targeted marketing campaigns to improve cross-sell and upsell, etc.. Well-designed data governance programs benefit the business via a holistic data management process that promises to deliver clean, connected and safe data to the downstream stakeholders depending on that data.

If it’s done right, data governance programs provide tremendous value to many organizations.  But those at the beginning of this journey often ask the question, “Where do I start?”  With data scattered everywhere and many parts of the business struggling with data issues on a regular basis (some don’t even realize the data they’re using shouldn’t be trusted),Where to begin? frequently it’s a challenge to identify the optimal starting point to frame your business case for data governance. The most common best practice we hear from successful data governance experts is to align relevant data management projects and investments with business priorities – in particular long term, strategic business initiatives as opposed to short-term, fire-fighting tasks.

Your CEO and senior executives define the long-term strategic imperatives most critical to the success of your organization.  To ensure your data governance program is on track to support these imperatives, you need to build your business case demonstrating a clear line of sight to how data process and infrastructure investments will enable these strategic objectives. If you are lucky, you may have an active and influential executive sponsor who can stand by you in support of your vision and help you present the case to the leadership team in the organization.  If not, you are in Grassroots Land – an often lonely and desolate place – except you’re not alone – based on one of our recent surveys, securing executive sponsorship is considered one of the top challenges for getting data governance started.

But don’t despair, you just need to do your homework and build a sound, fact-based business case illustrating how data issues are negatively impacting customers, introducing compliance risk, or impacting financial stability. Use data to back up your argument.

By tying data governance to these very real business challenges, you have a better shot at convincing senior leadership that data governance is truly a strategic approach to solving business critical problems and driving growth. This “top-down” approach is highly valuable to help get a data governance program off the ground, because executive sponsorship often comes with funding, resources, prioritization and guidance to help you establish a formalized data governance practice within your organization.

The scope of your data governance program can vary in the beginning.  The decision on the scope will help define the actual execution strategy. If the scope is directly related to a broad, enterprise-wide business initiative such as transforming the company to a data-driven organization, then the program itself may also start as a company-wide movement (But you better have serious executive buy-in to eat that particular elephant in one bite, or it’s a recipe for disappointment). In this scenario, every piece of data that could affect the key business functions will need to be conformed to agreed-upon data governance principles before they are consumed. Everyone and anyone who touches the data will need to treat data as a critical enterprise asset and adhere to policies and guidelines defined by the data governance program.

In other cases, when the current business priority is to tackle a more targeted business objective, say improving customer satisfaction scores and reducing churn rates, then the scope and activities of the data governance program can be moreHow do you eat the elephant effectively tuned to support that specific business initiative, and the program will likely impact the business processes most relevant to the business function.   Regardless of the scope,  it’s worth noting that any data governance effort should be logically broken out into multiple phases that can deliver iterative – and increasing – business value.  This will help to build momentum and support for ongoing investment as your program’s influence and ROI being delivered to the organization becomes clearer.

To learn more best practices for getting your data governance efforts off the ground and making it operational, please join us on Aug 20 for a live webinar with Terri Mikol, Director of Data Governance at UPMC, and Rob Karel, VP of product strategy and marketing at Informatica.  The registration is now open: and we look forward to an informative discussion with you!