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Dear Laura: Data Governance Budget Woes

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Read more about author Laura Madsen.

Welcome to the Dear Laura blog series! As I’ve been working to challenge the status quo on Data Governance – I get a lot of questions about how it will “really” work. I’ll be sharing these questions and answers via this DATAVERSITY® series. In 2019, I wrote the book “Disrupting Data Governance” because I firmly believe that poor Data Governance programs are getting in the way of data programs being as successful as possible.

Read the most recent blog posts in this series here and here.

“Dear Laura,

It is the worst time of the year, at least for me. It’s budget time. Every year it feels like the same old thing. I run a large analytics team and we do a good, well-appreciated job for the organization. We’re cautious and pragmatic about investments and as a result have garnered a lot of trust with executives.  That’s true except for Data Governance. For the last four years while I’ve led this team Data Governance has been re-started twice, and each year they ask for (and I agree they need) more budget but that’s always the first thing that gets cut. I do my best to play little games with the budgeting like pad one-line item so I can move it over to Data Governance later but that only gets me so far. I know that if my current Data Governance leader doesn’t get the money she needs to do the work, I will be looking for a new leader next spring. Help!

Desperate in Denver”

Hi Desperate,

Sorry to hear of your predicament. It’s not an unusual situation, sad to say. First off, I will say that it is frustrating when organizations insist they need Data Governance but refuse to fund it. If you need it, then support it. That’s all there is to that. However, it is a bit of a tough spot for a lot of executives because Data Governance is one of those things that seems time-consuming, expensive, abstract, and often isn’t a value add.

There are several ways organizations try to get around it – fearmongering seems to be the most common. That’s easy to do lately with large fines coming down from regulatory bodies literally quoting lack of “Data Governance.” Unfortunately, fearmongering is a bit like those one-hit wonders we all love. For a short burst of time, you can’t think of any other song, but then something else comes along and you all but forget about it. Most people think they can make a few small adjustments or investments to ward off Uncle Sam and then they wipe their hands of it. Fear-mongering backfires.

Related to fearmongering you certainly could throw around compliance issues. Since the beginning of GDPR the connection between Data Governance and compliance has been conflated. We had the issue before, of course, but not to this degree, now everyone working on Data Governance thinks their job is to write policies and procedures and protect data assets. It’s certainly part of their job but not at the risk of losing the other pillars of Data Governance – increasing data usage, improving data quality, creating and maintaining data lineage, and, finally, ensuring protection.

See, the trouble is, when you ignore the other pillars, you lose the long game. Avoiding fines by creating a strong privacy and compliance program is the job of your chief compliance officer, a position much better positioned (typically) than the lowly Data Governance manager buried five layers deep in an obscure IT function. I bet if you asked your CEO who is accountable for protecting the organization from fines associated with the current in-fashion legislation associated with data privacy, she would tell you it was the general counsel or chief compliance officer. Maybe the privacy officer or CISO. I doubt highly she would say Data Governance leader.  

So, I ask you, Desperate, which camp do you find yourself in? If your Data Governance leader has ignored those other pillars, then perhaps she shouldn’t get the budget because she’s not delivering value to the organization. Focus on the other pillars, build a happy alliance with your privacy, security, and compliance team, and build metrics to show improvement in areas everyone sees as high value such as increasing usage and improving data quality. Then next year, I bet you won’t have any problem getting budget.  

Do you have a question about Data Governance you’d like me to answer? Email me at Laura at moxyanalytics dot com.

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