Common mistakes that can derail a data governance strategy and program

Creating a successful data governance program is no cakewalk: It takes a lot of planning and preparation and requires the involvement of both IT and business professionals on an ongoing basis. And there are numerous pitfalls that can trip up companies when they’re crafting and implementing a data governance strategy.

In this video interview from the fall 2010 TDWI World Conference in Orlando, Jill Dyche, partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting Group Inc., and Kimberly Nevala, a principal consultant at Baseline, talk about the common mistakes that businesses make in developing data governance plans and managing data governance programs. Dyche and Nevala also offer some data governance best practices tips on how to avoid those errors. In addition, they explain what decision rights are in a data governance context and discuss how data governance programs should be structured.

In the eight-minute video, viewers will learn:

  • What the single biggest mistake is that organizations make when creating a data governance strategy and program
  • Other common data governance errors that companies make
  • Why businesses are still falling into those data governance traps
  • Data governance best practices that can help project managers avoid such mistakes
  • What decision rights are and why they’re important to data governance programs
  • Whether data governance should be an IT or business program

Related resources on data governance:

Read the full transcript from this video below:  
Common mistakes that can derail a data governance strategy and program

Craig Stedman: Hi. I'm Craig Stedman, the Site Editor of SearchDataManagement.com
I'm at the TBWA World Conference 2012 in Orlando. And I'll be speaking
today with Jill Dyche and Kimberly Nevala of Baseline Consulting, about
common mistakes that organizations make on data governance programs. Jill
is a partner and cofounder of Baseline and Kimberly is a principal
consultant there. Thanks to both of you for going on camera with us.

Jill Dyche: Thank you, Craig.

Craig Stedman: Well, let's get to the questions then. What's the biggest mistake
that organizations make on data governance programs?

Jill Dyche: We're finding that the biggest mistake people are making with data
governance is in the organizational focus. So, people convene teams
together way too early, before establishing what data governance is to look
like. And what that does is it establishes an expectation for meetings, but
not necessarily process, not necessarily automation, not necessarily the
mechanisms of data governance. And it doesn't necessarily establish the
problems that data governance is going to solve. So, we've got a bunch of
people in a room, but they don't necessarily know what to do and so that's
been a big problem because data governance can actually fizzle before we
even establish its importance.

Craig Stedman: And what are some of the other common mistakes that you see companies
making on data governance?

Kimberly Nevala: There are probably two. Either the first is that people get lost
from the sheer enormity of the problem because if you think of data
governance, and the types of problems it solves, it can actually impact
every process, every business function, every system in your organization.
And coming up with a laundry list of issues that need to be resolved is
what... I found this reference, TBU, true but useless information, in the
book "Switch: Managing Change When Change Is Hard". So, people get locked
in everything that could be wrong, everything they need to do and the size
and complexity of that problem becomes overwhelming. So, you really need to
focus in on what your priorities are. Take something that's small and
controllable, and then build the organization and the processes and address
those problems incrementally, over time. I think that tendency to want to
address all of the biggest issues in the organization at once leads to the
second issue, which, as we're convening, assuming that we define what the
Council should be or what data stewards should do, we are inviting
everybody in the organization into the room, to sit on the Data Governance
Council. Or everyone who might be a subject matter expert around the
process or an application is now a data steward. Again, what happens there
is we've got just too many opinions and people in the room and we don't
have fair accountability. We are not able to make decisions. So, we really
need to think about the idea of who is accountable for making decisions.
Who do they need to interact with to kind of inform and consult, relative
to those decisions, so that we can sort of breakdown the paradigm that
everybody has to be in the room and all decisions are made by committee.

Craig Stedman: Why you think these kind of mistakes are happening? Is it just
inexperience, that people are new to data governance and they don't really
know what they're getting into? Or does it go deeper than that?

Jill Dyche: The newness is actually a big piece of it. Right? Because data
governance as a concept is new and as Kimberly said, 'It's fraught with
multiple components,' and so some people are coming at data governance at
the data quality issue. Some people are coming at data governance as a
policymaking issue and so there are various interpretations, and as long as
data governance remains as broad and complex as that, then we're not
getting toward a common purpose, we're not getting toward a common
vocabulary around data governance, data stewardship, data quality, data
management, and the pieces, and the parts that those things play together
in symbiosis. So, it continues to be this jumbled mess of conversations and
meetings, as opposed to a series of tactics for problem solving. Which is
exactly where we want data governance to be.

Craig Stedman: How about some tips and advice for viewers on how they can avoid
making these kind of mistakes.

Kimberly Nevala: Yes. Absolutely. I think the first thing, as we already
mentioned, is to really identify a small discrete problem or project, that
you want to address or resolve, upfront. And focus your efforts around
that, instead of trying to boil that ocean. It's obvious but probably not,
it is one of the most common mistakes that we're still seeing people make.
The second is to really design the framework for data governance. And
understand what the decision-making bodies look like, what those roles and
responsibilities are, identify how the organization and the processes are
going to operate, before you identify named participants. Because
identifying named participants, for instance, "Kim, Jill and Craig are
going to be on the Data governance council," before we've identified what
the Data governance council is going to do and what problems we're trying
to solve, will lead to us basically subjugating, not purposefully,
potentially, the focus and the ultimate objective of the data governance.
Based on my own personal biases and needs and priorities.

Jill Dyche: And always just prepare for disruption. You know, data governance is,
by its very definition, disruptive. There's going to be change. And so
anticipating what that change is going to look like and enlisting the right
people, initially, in that initial change, will streamline the entire
process and establish the best practices internally for the activity at
large. But know that there's going to be disruption. There's sort of this
conversation going on in the market right now about nondisruptive data
governance, which we sort of think is a little bit of an oxymoron because
there is going to be change. So we need to be ready. We need to have the
people around us and the resources around us and the plan together to
prepare for that change and be ready for it.

Craig Stedman: Well, the data governance term I've been hearing a lot lately is
"decision rights" which sounds kind of like a legal term, like you're going
in front of the judge or something. But, can you explain what that is and
why it's important?

Jill Dyche: Yes. It's everything actually. Decision rights is a term that comes
up again and again with any kind of governance. And it's essentially the
accountabilities, and so it's actually sort of interesting that we see data
governance adoption as being more difficult in a consensus-driven
organization. Where everybody is making decisions based on big meetings, as
opposed to individual or small group accountability. Where there are very
clear decision rights and there is an impact for good decisions and bad
decisions. So, the understanding of who's got the authority to make
decisions and the impacts of those decisions actually drives data
governance forward in a faster and actually more efficient way than if
you're in a consensus-driven culture that is actually a little slower in
getting things done and making decisions.

Craig Stedman: And one final question. Is data governance an IT program? Is it a
business program? Or, is it a mixed IT and business program? Where the two
groups really need to be collaborating or working together?

Kimberly Nevala: I think Jill's earlier point, when we're talking about data
governance, I think, people have so many different perspectives on it but
we breakdown data governance programs into four functional areas. Executive
sponsorship, data governance, data stewardship, and data management. Those
functions are, respectively, responsible for strategic decision-making,
tactical decision-making i.e. information policies. Which would be the
purview of the data governance council, and then execution and
implementation of policies. Which is done by data management groups, with
the support of data stewardship. So, in that framework, data governance
function, the policy management function, is, by definition, a business-
oriented activity. And data management is a MIS or IT capability. So, it
really takes everybody to do that, and I think data governance is one of
those areas where business and IT have to collaborate to make that
successful in the long-term.

Jill Dyche: And so readiness is a big issue and we have had conversations,
recently, with clients, "Let's put the pieces in place but you're not ready
to launch just yet because there needs to be an awareness of those four
components."

Craig Stedman: All right. I think we'll leave it there. Jill, Kimberly, thanks again
to both of you for speaking with us.

Jill Dyche: Thanks.

Kimberly Nevala: Thanks.

Craig Stedman: You can find more practical advice about data governance and topics.
As well as the latest news and trends on SearchDataManagement.com. Have a
great day.

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