Everything a Marketer Never Wanted to Know About Data Governance (But Should)

Data GovernanceI’ve had an interesting career journey. I spent the first 20 years as either a data management/data governance practitioner, or industry analyst covering the data management space – and only the last 5-6 years or so as a marketing professional supporting a variety of marketing functions. From the outside it may appear as if this was a major shift in my career direction, but from my perspective it was the next logical evolution. My favorite part of the ‘data’ side of my career (no, not the Dark Side) was when I had the opportunity to support sales and marketing initiatives, and I have always had a passion for getting the right data to the right people to create the best end customer experiences.

An observation that I’ve made from both sides of the fence: the required foundational work to get data ‘marketing-ready’ was often left to IT and data management operations teams. When I say marketing-ready, I mean the effort to ensure that the data was accessible, clean, trustworthy, mastered, protected and effectively governed. Sometimes marketing would outsource some data cleansing, house holding or privacy scrubbing to database marketing agencies, or leverage validation and enrichment services, but it was often a tactical, campaign focused effort – not holistic across all of marketing, much less the enterprise.

But tactical, departmental marketing data management cannot scale. In today’s environment where all organizations are navigating their own data-driven digital transformations and are competing on customer experience above all else – the data used to create those top notch, differentiated experiences must be governed across all customer-facing functions (e.g., sales, service, support, marketing, finance) – not within functional siloes.

So, as a marketing leader, what are you supposed to do? I get it. Even if you’re extremely data-savvy and empathetic to the cause (as many marketers are), you want to continue to focus on your marketing career and objectives. Bottom line – leading a data governance initiative may not be on your career bucket list. It doesn’t have to be.

Many organizations have invested in a Chief Data Officer or similar leadership role to deploy effective data governance practices across the organization. But many of these CDO’s struggle to prioritize the myriad data requirements across the organization and can’t secure effective sponsorship and engagement from key business stakeholders. You know…support from marketers like you.

Here’s what you need to do to get your marketing data in order, without having to take your eye off your marketing career:

  • There are amazing data management experts at your company who are passionate about the data side of the business. Find them and help them – they’re your new best friends. You make them successful, and the data you depend upon improves.
  • If you don’t have a CDO or senior data governance leader, evangelize the need to hire one. Build a case for your CMO to advocate for this role with the broader executive committee.
  • If you have a CDO or DG leader, reach out to them and offer your active participation and support. And then give them your active participation and support. From my experience, I’ve seen well-supported data governance programs convert 10-15% of a stakeholder’s bandwidth over a 6-12 month project into tremendous business value.

Final advice. While trying to get this data governance initiative off the ground, do your best to protect your time commitment. No competing priorities (although new, shiny initiatives/fire drills often appear to distract us). Either trusted data is a marketing priority…or you’re wrong. (Couldn’t resist)