Data Governance

Podcast Summary: Data Governance Starts with People, Not Technology

Morgan Templar has been doing governance and data work for over 20 years – before the data governance became the buzzword, it is today. She specializes in helping organizations get their programs off the road and understand how it should be structured. She also provides coaching services for Chief Data Officers and Chief Information Officers, providing insights and guidance when challenges occur to help smooth the implementation.

What’s interesting is that Morgan has both a technical and business background. She has seen how operations work and how solutions are developed giving her a keen view of both sides of the governance equation. Her focus is on the people element in governance programs and having that technical understanding can help a lot. According to Morgan, process and technology must be “married” for a data governance program to be successful.

What is a Data Governance program and why do you need one?

Morgan explains that a data governance program is a method to put formal guard rails around an organization’s most important asset – its information. She says it’s critical especially in today’s digital environment. It ensures the integrity of information across processes and systems regardless of where those systems reside or what technology they are built upon.

It’s also about identifying the individuals accountable for that information. Morgan said that when data has an owner and a common standard, it can be used consistently for analytics and reporting. Data quality = powerful data.

Key Elements of a Governance Program

A data governance program is a compliment to security and audit processes which most organizations have in place. It’s different from these in a few ways. First, there is a business SME who owns the entire lifecycle of a piece of data; not just the data as it resides in one system, but across all systems.

Second, there is a method to tie information across an organization together – leveraging a standard glossary that provides the business context of the data. A data quality program also needs to be put it in place to ensure that data quality is not lost (this is really critical because people make big and small mistakes that need to be corrected). Finally, you need a method to report on the health of the information as well as your governance program.

Morgan believes the governance aspect has been missing in many organizations for a while. Too often data is left in the hands of the IT who doesn’t understand the business context of their information.

Often when an org focuses on a governance program from a system perspective, it disenfranchises the business. The systems are often too technical to understand and use. Not having the business involved tends to lose some of the value of the governance program.

The Tactics and Strategies Required to Get Your People on Board

Morgan provided three key things to do. The first is to implement your governance program at the same time as you implement your governance software. You need to involve key subject matter experts and identify the owners of the data.

She said it’s important to start at the top and understand what is important to the company, what are their goals. With this understanding, you will know what metrics and measurements you need to ensure those goals are being met. Once you know the metrics, you’ll be able to identify the information critical to have so you can track the metrics. This, Morgan said, is a business conversation. “Context is important.”

The second key element is that a governance program must be a top-down conversation. Morgan said you could start from the bottom up or the middle out, but you need that top-down business ownership.

The third element that is a governance program is an investment that needs to be prioritized accordingly. It will require resources and funding. People will need the time to do the work, to report on the efforts and the program.

Getting Buy-in is Challenging

There is a lot of talk about monetizing data, but Morgan points out that you can’t do that if you don’t know what you have and you don’t control it. She said that it seems counter-intuitive to put money into something that isn’t tangible, like a governance program. The key to making a governance program tangible, like a software program, is to have a governing body in the form of the C-suite.

A governance program also needs to work with internal audit and security. It should be aware of and tied to regulatory standards, ensuring the organization collects, manages and use information according to those standards. Morgan said that a negative finding from a regulatory agency could often be avoided by having a governance program. However, this is a cost avoidance project, and those are hard to sell.

Consistent, frictionless customer experience is another benefit of a solid governance program. It’s critical to have a single view of the customer across the organization to ensure you are not only resolving customer issues quickly but avoiding them in the first place. And don’t forget about GDPR – how can you exercise a customers “right to be forgotten” if you don’t know where you have all that customer’s information in your organization?

One final challenge we discussed is when the business people don’t want to be involved. It’s a big responsibility to know and manage the end-to-end lifecycle of a piece of customer information. Many will take the stance “it’s not my problem.” So it’s a big mind change for the business owner, and it’s critical to ensure the right person owns that information lifecycle.

The Steps Necessary to Get People Involved from the Beginning

We ended the podcast with Morgan outlining the key steps necessary to get people involved from the beginning. Here is the list, but you should listen to the podcast to get the full understanding of each point:

  1. First, define the key outcomes and make sure that senior leadership is on board 100 %. Well defined KPI’s are critical to tie outcomes to success.
  2. Identify the business leaders that will benefit the most or have the most impact on the KPI’s and educate them on the process and reasons for governance. (Regulatory, data monetization, data quality, customer experience, etc.)
  3. Provide the necessary time and funding for the business SME’s that will be named as data stewards.
  4. Invest in an appropriate data governance tool – there are a few good ones on the market, but some are too technical. If a technical solution is chosen, ensure that IT support is available to help with the data analysis and translation. Most business users don’t understand data classification or normalization of data.
  5. Establish a clear charter, schedule for meetings, and reporting on progress that is overseen by senior leadership. Tie outcomes to bonuses if possible.
  6. Use appropriate change management techniques to roll out the program and maintain momentum.
  7. Have a 1, 3, and five-year roadmap with milestones assigned – know where you’re going.
  8. Measure, report, measure, report. What is measured improves. What is measured publicly improves faster.

You can learn more from Morgan Templar by reaching out to her directly:

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