Driving Adoption for Data Governance

If you ask anyone who has been involved with a Data Governance (DG) initiative, they will tell you that the hardest part is not the technology, but the cultural change required to support it. Technology eases the path, but any tool is only as good as what is put into it and only as current as the updates made to it.

Imagine the first time that a user logs in to a data governance tool, they see a beautiful user interface and an intuitive user experience, and they begin to explore. Are they likely to stay long when they see a process that is months out of date? Or observe that a system which has been decommissioned is still listed as active? What will they think if they see that a policy refers to the 1995 Data Protection Directive, rather than GDPR? Although the tool in itself could be perfect, if the content is not up to par, an end user will quickly discount it as a source of reliable information. So how do we keep content dynamic? Technology and adoption!

Why do we need adoption?

With improvements in technology, it may seem sometimes that almost everything can be automated. In which case why do we need adoption at all to keep our metadata up to date? Within any organization there exists many different types of knowledge, in many different types of forms. At a minimum, there will always be:

  1. Knowledge hardwired into systems
  2. Knowledge documented in various tools
  3. Knowledge that is simply the understanding that people have in their heads about how to do their jobs

While you can and should use technology to extract as much as you can in relation to 1 and 2, the elusive piece of the puzzle comes from 3. If we truly want to understand how data is used within an organization, it is paramount that we engage with the people who are using that data in their day to day jobs. No tool can extract all of this information automatically, so the top priority of any DG initiative should be to engage with stakeholders and drive adoption above all else.

What level of adoption do we need?

The fact of the matter is, no organization has enough data stewards employed to keep all the important metadata related to the organization dynamic, particularly with the amount of metadata and the level of flux we are dealing with in modern companies. If we leave the work to data stewards, they will always be one step behind, chasing the actual data/process owners for updates. Therefore, the only feasible long-term solution is to embed 5% of governance activities into 95% of peoples’ jobs – disseminating responsibility to those who actually know their particular process/system/business term/policy inside out!

How can we drive this kind of adoption?

People are set in their ways. If you want them to try something new, you are going to have to give them something in return. Furthermore, Data Governance is not always the most popular initiative within an organization. In fact, many organizations have felt the need to rebrand the concept due to the associations it dredges up. Whether you are calling it ‘Data Management; ‘Data Enablement’ or even ‘Collaborative Enterprise Understanding’ the ultimate goal should be to tackle the associations themselves.

  1. DITCH heavy-duty Manual Effort
    The first thing that springs to mind when you ask someone to support your DG initiative tends to be the amount of work that will be expected from them. Documenting all of your metadata? That sounds like a huge job, particularly if starting from scratch! It is critical that they see this effort as something that will make their life easier rather than harder.
    So, begin by reminding them that times have changed—although technology cannot do it all, it can certainly do a lot! Make sure that your stakeholders are aware that this is not the manual council-led, definition-focused, old-fashioned data governance of 2010! Automation is available at scale to minimize the amount of work required of them, and they will benefit from all of this great groundwork exponentially. We are no longer starting from scratch! To see how Informatica is leveraging automation capabilities at scale to support data governance initiatives, please click here and here respectively.
  2. STOP being Paralyzed by Choice
    No one has the time to govern everything, so by default you have to be selective. Yet many companies get stuck over competing priorities and cannot determine where they should begin. As data governance has matured far beyond the glossary that used to be almost synonymous with it, so have the amount of data assets you are looking to monitor. We are no longer simply talking about keeping definitions up to date. The market has changed, and modern governance initiatives consider the inter-connectivity between systems, data, lineage, process, policy, projects and so much more.
    It can seem overwhelming, but rather than limit the type of assets to govern (as we used to, focusing only on definition and policy), we need to cut out the irrelevant item altogether. Governance for governance’ sake is never a good idea, but if you chose a project which needs to achieve results and begin to track all of the related elements you will be able to showcase something quite powerful without the lead time. To see how Informatica’s data governance framework can steer your early decisions and help you leverage years of data governance experience in your organization, please click here.
  3. GAIN the Ability to Execute
    Governance can often be seen as a lot of information gathering without a lot of impact. Glossary tools may give you a bit of shared understanding and help you to align on semantics but how far do they really go towards solving your business problems?
    It is one thing to define a term, yet another to understand where that concept exists in your system landscape. Still another to track the quality of that data through its many iterations and quite another to also understand its privacy status along the way. Governance alone does not tackle your quality concerns or the privacy of your data – see governance as a springboard for better data management as a whole. For more about how Informatica’s platform can lead you from data governance to enterprise data management, please click here.

All in all, enterprise data governance is no mean feat. There is a reason that many initiatives run out of steam, lose funding and ultimately fall by the wayside. But there is also a reason they are picked up again, dusted off and reattempted. Data Governance is not going away (even if renamed!) so it’s time we started thinking about approaching it differently, with adoption as our number one priority—only by making it a small part of everyone’s job can data governance become sustainable.

Ready to drive Data Governance adoption in your organization? You can learn more about driving culture change in this webinar from the Data Empowerment Experts series, “Keeping Up with the Chaos: The Evolution of Data Governance at FIS.”