80% Of Data Governance Is Showing Up

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by Janine Joseph

Do you recognize the famous quote that inspired the title of this blog? It is frequently referenced when people are talking about their careers. And although I don’t often think about Woody Allen when discussing Data Governance, it seems to me that when he stated “80% of Life is Showing Up,” he pretty much hit the Data Governance nail on the head.

Woody’s statement is deceptively simple – especially when we look at it through the lens of Data Governance. We all understand the spirit of his statement, but it is easy for many people to under estimate the effort it takes to “show up” for Data Governance. We can’t simply walk into a room of leaders and spark their interest in our efforts with ill prepared presentations or informal conversation. Rather, I believe it’s about doing the hard work, and sometimes the thankless work, to be prepared to “show up” for Data Governance.

We “show up” for Data Governance in many ways – meetings, conference calls, hallway conversations, emails, instant messages, casual lunch conversations, etc. But how do we prepare ourselves to “show up” at these events? Are we ready for all of the questions and conversations?” Are we ready to creatively think of ways for Data Governance to partner with an area or a project? Do we have enough people with the breadth of knowledge about Data Governance to help our team “show up” in a unified approach?

Things to consider to successfully “show up” for Data Governance:

  1. Are you actively seeking out ways for people in your company to tap into Data Governance? Are you looking and listening for not only the obvious partnerships, but the ones that may be a little disguised?

Lessons Learned: Do we have Data Governance representatives who actively “show up” at meetings? Or, as a former colleague of mine once said, “the Data Governance representative is a potted plant in our meetings.” Imagine hearing that about your peer! My reaction to this was quite obvious. Ouch! Are you and your team present and engaged in conversations? Do Data Governance representatives check emails when they should be paying attention to the meeting? Yes, we are all guilty of trying to multi-task at times, but we need to “show up” and represent Data Governance well at every opportunity. For myself, I rarely take my smart phone to a meeting any longer. Even if I could multi-task, should I? Data Governance needs to be present and engaged so we can uncover opportunities.

  1. Do you share what you know about Data Governance? Do you mentor people or do you expect that they already understand your effort?

Lessons Learned: Those of us working in the discipline of Data Governance can sometimes forget that not everybody works in Data Governance. We need to make sure to “show up” by presenting and speaking the right language to the right audience. Nothing will turn off people faster than speaking in our industry jargon. How did you learn about Data Governance? Who mentored you? More than likely there was somebody in our work history that helped us understand these concepts. Personally, I always think back to my fantastic mentors and how they helped me learn and understand Data Governance. It only takes a little extra time to explain new concepts to people, so I am an opportunistic mentor whenever possible. And not only does this help people understand the questions they have at that time, it makes them comfortable to come back to you for their next question. That’s how I try to “show up” in a day-by-day fashion.

  1. Do you have all of the collateral you need to withstand drastic changes in your organization? What happens if your biggest advocate leaves your company?

Lessons Learned: There is one thing you can count on in your Data Governance career and that is change. Your leadership will change. Your organizational support and structure will change. Your team members will change. Your peers will change. Many things will change and we have to “show up” for every one of them. Therefore, we must make sure to have all of our collateral up-to-date and ready to go at the drop of a hat. The best thing you can do for yourself and your team is to have your Data Governance collateral in excellent condition. With Data Governance it is never “one and done.” If your Data Governance collateral hasn’t been updated in two or three years I would say the team is not ready to “show up.” If you are executing toward your Data Governance goals, how could the collateral remain stagnant for that long? If the collateral is stale, so too is your message. Constantly improving and updating our collateral is key to “showing up” at every opportunity.

  1. Does your company understand the benefits your efforts bring? Do people understand more about your processes or do they understand how you will assist their efforts?

Lessons Learned: When we are working to stand up our Data Governance effort, we sometimes get stuck in the processes, best practices, and industry standards. We sometimes forget to talk about why we are doing all of this because we are focused on how we are doing our jobs. I sometimes find that people think we perform Data Governance just to perform Data Governance. We need to “show up” as early as possible in our efforts and inform people how our discipline will benefit the company, its people, and projects.

So, do you think 80% of Data Governance is about showing up? Showing up sounds much easier than it is; we all know it’s a more difficult challenge than just physically being there. It’s about being very prepared and extremely engaged. We don’t want to be potted plants, we want to Govern Data. Therefore, I think we need to remember that Data Governance “shows up” in many ways and we need to be ready for all of them.

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