A Lesson on Focus and Foundation: How the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency Has Established a Governance Framework for Success

Any time that your organization’s value proposition is centered on safety, then trust must be critical to your success: Trust in results. Trust in data. Trust in your ability to deliver on that promise of ensuring that everyone and everything is protected. That’s certainly the case of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in the United Kingdom. Their charter is to ensure that the roads in Britain are safe, and that everything on those roads—including cars and the citizens driving them—are protected. To do that, from a data perspective, you have to have trust in your data. And for the team the DVSA, the key to their success has been their focus on delivering trust and the foundation that they put in place to deliver on their promise. 

As we’ve done with every Data Empowerment Experts webinar, I sat down with Kris Marshall, the Head of Data for the DVSA, to discuss the topics we’ve featured throughout our series: the fundamentals that data governance leaders need to master today in order to empower their organizations with trusted data. 

1. Question: How do you choose where to start?  

Answer: My advice is to start with the business. Data governance is a business program and they need to be involved from the beginning. For our team, we outlined several significant use cases before ever starting with software. We ended up with two or three use cases that could make for a good starting point, but one that stood out the most had a business sponsor and financial implications. It also was a project that was transformative in nature, which aligned with our charter. Because we had the necessary ingredients, we took our first step in the direction of this project. What I would recommend is to look for projects that have the right resources and people involved, have the business buy-in, and have measurable, financial paybacks to start out strong.  

2. Question: How do you maintain momentum?  

Answer: Maintaining momentum has everything to do with starting out on the right foot. We focused on the foundation from the start, so building momentum grew off of the initial steps. One of the critical areas for us was to identify a business data owner. This individual is a senior title and we aligned to his project. He hand-picked his data stewards and our governance team aligned. We supported their needs and participated in working group meetings to discuss progress and overcome challenges. I recommend making these meetings mandatory and ensuring that the business data owner as well as the hand-picked data stewards have access to all of the data that they need. The outcomes of the working group meetings ladder up to the steering committee meetings. We haven’t lost momentum with our programs as our projects all follow this same structure. Invest in the foundation, do the pre-planning, organize yourselves, hold accountable meetings, prioritize effectively, and you’ll maintain all of the momentum you need. As a final thought, put emphasis on stewardship. Your data stewards must know the data. The business data owner is critical, but you need individuals that know the data inside and out. Without the right stewards, you’ll lose a lot of valuable time when establishing your foundation.  

3. Question: How do you address scale?  

Answer: For scale, Axon has been really helpful to our teams. Our problem with scalability has never been about too many users or too much data. Our scale issue is centered on the reliability of the data we have, in that the vast majority of it wasn’t high quality. With Axon, and with Informatica Data Quality, we’re able to ensure that the right people have the right access to the right data. With the heavy focus on ensuring accuracy in the data, we can deal with our scale problem by repairing the data before granting access. This also allows us to track how we’re doing over time to ensure that we don’t have a quality, and thus a scalability issue, again. If you get the foundation right, and set up the documentation early, then your people will be able to hit the ground running with information that they can rely on.  

4. Question: How do you measure success?  

Answer: Success measurements come in two forms for us. First, our charter is to make Britain’s roads safer. This is our business strategy and, to be successful, we have built in metrics that display how we’re doing against it. Second, we have risk and fraud scores that serve as indicator and are tied to money. By focusing on efficiency from these indicators, we’re able to demonstrate success on another area tied to cost savings. Again, as part of our foundation, we set up benchmarks that we measure against. These thresholds serve as our ability to demonstrate if we are improving or need to refocus.  

5. Question: How has data privacy been a factor?    

Answer: As a public sector group, data privacy is even more important. We have to be focused on areas like GDPR. When it comes to anything that can be considered PII, we pause and put extra care in place. Our whole team knows that when it comes to these data types, we must find the data, catalog it, have it tagged properly, and identify areas that pose the greatest risk. Because we have focused on this from the beginning, we have better visibility and see where our issues are located and apply the correct policies without it feeling heavy handed. This has helped us be consistent in how we handle data that must be kept protected and private.  

6. Question: How do you empower the business to drive value?  

Answer: Empowerment, to me, is about involvement. Get the right people involved early, set up your working groups appropriately, hear their concerns and empower the right data stewards and owner to set their policies and tolerance levels. Then they are bought in, because they own the data. Give them a place to talk, discuss and escalate if necessary—in our case, this is the steering committee. That ensures they will be heard. I have often said that a data governance program is not about solving problems. It’s about providing the right business outcomes. It’s about the strategy—having the right people involved and have them in the right roles in place. If you can provide them trust in their data, the framework to be successful and the technology to facilitate it all, then you’ll have an empowered organization that can and will focus on the value they deliver from their business outcomes.  

Join us next week to learn even more from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. Kris will outline their journey and share how their focus on getting the foundation set has helped them to deliver organizational value for the DVSA. Register to attend today.