Data governance

Do you know what is in a data governance framework?

If you’re reading this article, chances are that at some point in the not-too-distant past, you’ve Googled the term “data governance framework.” Not only that, but you’ve probably had a myriad of responses as well. Some of them probably make it sound really, really complicated.

A data governance framework is something you can make as complicated as you want, but in my experience, it really should be as simple as possible. I advocate simplicity when doing data governance above all else, and if you watch any of my videos or blogs, you’ll already know that. In fact, it’s one of the key principles of successful data governance that you can read about at click here. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and add more details if needed, but just start and build as you need.

That doesn’t answer the question posed, does it? So what is a data governance framework?

Well, to me, the only way to be successful with data governance is to first determine why your organization needs data governance, and then design and implement a framework that meets those needs.

When I design a data governance framework, I make sure it contains three key elements: policy, processes, and roles and responsibilities. And these will almost certainly differ from organization to organization.

Let’s start with politics. I’ve seen many examples where people have spent a lot of time and effort researching data governance, what they think they should have in their framework and dumping whatever they found in their data governance policy. It ends up giving you a really long policy…I saw some of them as little novels! And to be fair, I may have written that much in the early days.

But when you come to share them with stakeholders, especially the more experienced ones, they’re going to be completely turned off by the level of detail. This scares people away, and you won’t get your approach endorsed by your key stakeholders. You can even impact the success of your data governance initiative at this point.

The other thing I often see is people thinking they can speed up this part of a data governance initiative by copying someone else’s policy and framework. So they Google or ask a friend who does similar work in another organization if they can get a copy of their policy.

I would really caution you against this, because a policy needs to be written to reflect how your organization wants to do data governance. Taking someone else’s and just adapting and changing a few things means you don’t have a written policy for your organization. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely to be useful or relevant to your organization. And again, more likely to put more people’s backups and damage your data governance initiative.

For a policy to be truly useful (i.e. help you implement data governance successfully), it must be written with your organization in mind and consider the following points:

  • What is the scope of your data governance program?
  • What will your organization do to better manage its data?
  • What roles and responsibilities will you have to better manage your data?
  • What type of process are you going to implement due to data governance?

Now, the answers to these questions will not be the same for all companies and I can honestly say that every organization I have worked with has been unique in its approach to data governance. I admit sometimes the differences are subtle, but for a policy to be valid, those subtleties really need to be addressed.

Then you should include some processes, because I find that if you don’t tell people how to do it, they tend to do their own thing, or they don’t do it consistently, or they don’t do it at all . So we need documented processes for people to follow so they know and understand what data governance is and what you want them to do. The processes you have will depend on the benefits you are trying to achieve, but should include a central process for investigating and resolving data quality issues.

And then finally, we need some roles and responsibilities because I’m sure you’ve been to the same meetings… you know the ones where everyone violently agrees that something needs to be done, everyone agree on actions and then we go back to the follow-up meeting…and everyone thought someone else was actually going to do that action.

Well, data governance is like that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people why I think we should do data governance in this organization and everyone agrees with me. Nobody ever says “that’s stupid, we shouldn’t do it”, they always agree that we have to do it.

They could give me all sorts of reasons why it can’t be done right now…because they’re busy, they don’t have the resources, etc., but they’re not saying it’s the wrong thing to do. What’s pretty common is that everyone thinks someone else is going to do it for them.

This is not the case – almost everyone has a role to play if you are implementing a data governance framework, and so your framework itself should detail those roles.

Make sure your roles and responsibilities are properly defined and that you have found suitable people for each of these roles. There’s no point in defining roles and responsibilities and then finding people to fill the roles if you don’t explain to them what you want them to do and how they should do it.

It sounds obvious, but be sure to document your processes and provide adequate instructions so everyone knows what to do.

Remember, if you have any questions you’d like to see covered in future videos or articles, please email me – [email protected].

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