Data Governance Success: Implementing the Appropriate Approach

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“When it comes to governing data as an asset,” said Robert Seiner, speaking at Enterprise Data Governance Online 2017 Conference, “Data Governance is really a cultural change.” The success of your program is largely dependent on “peoples’ willingness to change their behavior,” so your planning process should start by considering the best approach to affect behavior change, he said. Seiner is President and Principal Consultant at KIK Consulting, where he offers consulting and educational services.

First Steps

Seiner stressed that when planning implementation of your Data Governance program, it’s important to keep in mind previous attempts at Data Governance and the culture of your organization. He presented three distinct management styles: Command and Control, Traditional, and Non-Invasive, while comparing and contrasting the management styles of each in relationship to Data Governance program implementation.

  • The Command and Control Approach says: “You will do this.”
  • The Traditional Approach says: “We don’t have the authority to make you do this but we hope you’ll do this.”
  • The Non-Invasive Approach™ says: “You’re already doing this,” and recognizes those who are doing it already.

Presenting his definitions of Data Governance and Data Stewardship, he said, “It’s always good to start out with a solid definition of Data Governance, no matter what that definition is that you use in your organization.” He likes to “put some teeth into” the definition of Data Governance. “Data Governance is the execution and enforcement of authority over the management of data and data-related resources.” Some organizations consider this worded too strongly, he said. “Data Stewardship is the formalization of accountability over the management of data and data-related resources.”

“The truth is, no matter how you define Data Governance, whether it’s the orchestration of people and processes and data, or harmonization of people and process and data,” he said.

“Those are great definitions –  but the fact is, at the end of the day, for Data Governance to be successful, you need to execute and enforce authority over the management of data,” He added. “And Data Stewardship has a lot to do with selecting the right approach to Data Governance.”

Selecting the Right Approach to Data Governance Roles

He shared a framework that he uses as a model for comparing different approaches to Data Governance. Seiner started with roles, in context of each of the three different approaches. With the Command and Control Approach, specific roles are assigned to people, and is a process that often feels new and requires them to find the time for it.

Command and Control is the most invasive of the approaches – participants are told that they are required to do this, yet:

“They already have day jobs and those day jobs are monopolizing all of their time. So, to assign somebody into a new role associated with Data Governance – that’s immediately going to be perceived by that person as being something that’s over and above what they presently do.”

So, the process becomes about how to fit it in to their everyday job functions. Data Governance competes with their job, “and that’s really the last thing that we want to do. We don’t want people to push back and say ‘I don’t have time for Data Governance,’” he said. So, with a Command and Control Approach,

“The very first thought that people are going to have is that ‘this is beyond what I’m presently doing, and if I’m already busy as all heck, then to find time to participate in this role is going to be difficult for me and my organization.’”

The Traditional Approach is less invasive and depends upon the people in the organization, hoping that they will make the time for Data Governance, “because we don’t have necessarily the authority to make them do it.” The verb that is most closely identified with the Traditional Approach is “identify,” he said. “We’re going to identify people into these roles.”

Oftentimes policies, procedures, and practices exist where people already have certain responsibilities, and “We’re going to ‘identify’ them rather than ‘assign’ them to be Data Stewards and we’re going to help them to understand [the components] we’ve put into place.”

The verb for the Non-Invasive Approach is ‘recognize.’ “We look for the people in the organization who define data as part of their job and we help them to understand that they have some responsibility for how they go about defining data.” Because of that relationship to the data, there is some level of accountability based on that relationship, he said. “Data Stewardship is formalizing accountability, rather than handing it to somebody as something that’s brand new.”

The practice of applying formal accountability through Non-Invasive roles and responsibilities, provides opportunities to apply governance to your processes, “to make sure that the Data Governance program is actually doing for your organization what you set out to accomplish,” he said.

To illustrate advantages inherent in a Non-Invasive Approach, Seiner said:

“In a lot of organizations, customer data, for example, is defined many, many, many, times, and rather than adding a new definition to ‘customer,’ if we put the responsibility on the people who are defining data to look [up] what examples of customer data already exist, we’re now giving them some level of accountability for finding that definition if it already exists, rather than adding something new,” he said. “We need to make certain that people who are using the data understand the rules associated with how they can use it.”

Seiner then compared how different areas of Data Governance would be viewed, based on each of the three approaches.

The Data Governance Process

Under Command and Control, all processes are considered new and need governance. He suggests that organizations not call them Data Governance processes, because that gives the impression that, “the reason we are doing all this is because Data Governance tells us that we have to.” When there are penalties, they are due to using Command and Control and not due to Data Governance.

In a Traditional Approach, companies consider all governance activities part of the Data Governance process, which is considered the main dimension of the program, and ‘The Process’ is singled out as the reason for delays. Similar to the Command and Control approach, the process of implementation is still separated from Data Governance itself.

With the Non-Invasive Approach, governance is ‘applied to’ existing and new processes, he said. Processes are not called Data Governance processes, but are called by their original name: ‘request for access,’ ‘issue resolution,’ ‘project methodology,’ for example, and those processes are governed.


Using the Command and Control Approach, the main message is: “You will do this, you will find time, and you will continue to do this along with your regular job.” The concept of Data Governance is new to people, new to the organization, and communication is somewhat detailed and directive. Some organizations require this approach, he said.

The message in the Traditional Approach is: “You should do this.” Roles and processes are set up, resources are offered, and primary responsibility for success is charged to a group, which is told to act, although specific roles and tasks are not pre-assigned to individuals.

With the Non-Invasive Approach, he said, the message is: “You already do this. Let’s formalize and strengthen it.” Recognition for work already being done is the foundation.


Command and Control organizations will try to measure the value of Data Governance by finding ROI, and ROI needs to be quantified with dollars and cents, which is difficult to do with Data Governance itself, he said. “Data Governance itself isn’t necessarily going to make you more profitable. It’s not necessarily by itself going to save you time and save you money.”

The Traditional Approach often measures success by the quality of the data. This requires benchmarks or baseline info for the current state of the data to measure the improvement.
Seiner says the Non-Invasive Approach is less concerned with measuring the value of Data Governance in the organization and more concerned with measuring “the effect that Data Governance has had on other initiatives” in the organization. Organizations using the Non-Invasive Approach will ask:

“Are we increasing the usability of the data in the Data Warehouse because we’ve improved the definitions of the data? Are we improving accessibility to the data?”

The ROI is measured by the overall improvement in existing systems.


Organizations using the Command and Control Approach often purchase tools early in the program, he said. The tool becomes the focus, and return of investment on that purchase is anticipated. People are expected to learn the tool, which are often purchased without an understanding of how they might fit with existing systems.

The Traditional Approach relies on leveraging existing tools. The focus is on using exiting tools for specific activities and tasks, “like building business glossaries, building business workflows,” he said.

With the Non-Invasive Approach, organizations will leverage existing tools, but, “oftentimes organizations that are following the non-invasive approach are going to develop tools internally,” and then consider other options from tools that can be purchased, he said. “Existing and industry proven tools are often helpful.”


Seiner shared his “Data Governance Bill of Rights” for organizations, no matter what their approach:

“Getting the right people involved at the right time, in the right step of the process, using the right data, to come to the right decision.” He continued, “We’re not talking about rights as individual rights, we’re talking about the right thing to do according to the approach that is appropriate for your organization. So, when you’re deciding which is the appropriate approach for you to use in your organization when it comes to implementing Data Governance, you have that decision – do you want to take this more invasive Command and Control Approach, do you want to take a Traditional Approach, or do you want to take a Non-Invasive Approach?”

Consider what the best approach is for behavior change in your organization, and step into Data Governance with confidence.


Check out Enterprise Data Governance Online at

Here is the video of the

Here is the video of the Enterprise Data Governance Online 2017 Presentation:


Photo Credit: Yeamake/

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