How to Build a Data Governance Program in 90 Days

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data governance

For many people in business, the mention of a Data Governance program evokes excessive red tape, bureaucratic drag, and, most of all, outsiders meddling in daily operations. “What is the preconceived notion about Data Governance? We are the police, we tell you no, we tell you to stop, we slow you down,” said Sherry Hidalgo, senior enterprise governance and data manager at Shaw Industries, during her presentation at DATAVERSITY’s recent Data Governance & Information Quality Conference in San Diego.

Hidalgo’s compelling account of her Data Governance journey at Shaw Industries overturned such stereotypes of data governors as oppressive intruders and served as a remarkable case study of how Data Governance can be a force of efficiency and streamlining. Her story illustrates how a well-led Data Governance program can save a company untold hours and dollars – and how this can be implemented with amazing speed.

Before arriving at Shaw Industries, Hidalgo spent over 20 years implementing software solutions for various large-scale institutions (prisons, universities, and hospitals). However, overhauling Shaw was her most ambitious project to date, as the corporation is a $6 billion empire that supplies much of the world’s flooring and surfacing products. Despite this, the company suffered from outdated, clunky data management: Its team members were often unaware of what the other hands were doing – or even how many other hands existed.

Yet, within three months, Hidalgo transformed operations and corporate culture by building a successful Data Governance program.

Data Governance Is People

When Hidalgo joined Shaw Industries in 2019, the corporate giant was at a crossroads. While the company had a healthy staff of data stewards, Shaw Industries lacked any coherent Data Governance framework. Its data managers were firmly married to pre-electronic ways of doing things. “As you can imagine, siloed data sets. No enterprise solution. Just little pockets of governance,” Hidalgo recounted. “We had to shape and change that mindset from ‘We do it this way’ to ‘We do it the Shaw way now.’ Everyone on the same page.”

While Hidalgo’s makeover of Shaw Industries ultimately leaned heavily on a stem-to-stern tech retrofit, the most important piece in the process was having the right people. Shaw’s chief information officer (CIO) of almost four decades had just retired. When it came time to hire a new head, Hidalgo steered Shaw towards taking on an outside leader with fresh eyes, a wealth of experience, and most crucially, an almost fanatical belief in data-driven, top-down solutions.

After it took a jaw-dropping three weeks for staff to furnish a simple list of Shaw’s clientele, the new CIO immediately changed the direction of his new concern, pushing Shaw’s transformation of over 30 disconnected data-capturing systems into a unified master data solution. 

As Hidalgo affirms, having unwavering executive support of a Data Governance program from a CIO with a passion for data can make all the difference in the world. “That support really meant a lot to us,” she said. “You’re getting ready to go into an implementation that is hairy. It’s a lot. It’s pulling information from people; it’s talking to people who don’t want to do it. So, if you don’t engage your leadership, they’re not going to do it either.”

With a new data-friendly CIO at the helm, Hidalgo was able to assemble the right team for the job and, at the same time, create an environment of maximum engagement with data culture. She assembled discussion teams and even a data book club that read and reviewed the latest Data Governance literature. In turn, that team assembled its own Data Governance website as a platform not just for sharing ideas but also to spread the momentum.

“We kept the juices flowing, kept the excitement,” Hidalgo recalled. “And then with our Data Governance office and steering committee, we engaged with all departments, we have people from HR, compliance, legal product, everywhere – to make sure that everyone is represented.” Before long, the team had built the coherence and focus on defining its mission statement of “restoring data quality ownership to the business, by aligning technology and business strategies through simplification and standardization.”

Data Governance Is Technology

Although Hidalgo makes no bones about her view that “the ultimate quality tool is people,” it was also her shrewd choice of technology platforms that sped along her 90-day Data Governance mission. After reviewing four different vendors, Hidalgo ultimately tapped Informatica to facilitate Shaw’s new master data vision. From her days in the health care market and implementing electronic medical records, she had learned the importance of partnerships between clients and tech vendors. “If you don’t have that relationship, and you don’t have that trust, it is very difficult to continue moving forward,” she said.

After choosing a technology platform in May, Hidalgo began the most arduous part of the process: preparation for a “jumpstart” campaign that would kick off in July. Hidalgo and her team began to catalog existing data one subset of data at a time – 20 KPIs or so – and complete its business glossary terms. Most importantly, Hidalgo had all along been building bridges between Shaw’s IT team, Data Governance crew, and business leadership to the degree that when the jumpstart was completed – on time – the entire business saw the immense value-add of the Data Governance that had been built. “They were like, ‘OK, so this is governance!’ I said, ‘Yes, this is what we do.’”

Beyond 90 Days: Influencing and Evangelizing

Although Hidalgo’s commitment to Shaw Industries is unquestionable, her greater mission is ultimately to change corporate culture around perceptions of Data Governance through ongoing outreach initiatives. Indeed, it’s no coincidence that she refers to the process of spreading the good news of Data Governance as “evangelizing.” For Hidalgo, the Gospel of Data can be disseminated in myriad forms: training demos, internal communications, branding, blogs, websites, and memes. (Notably, she has posted memes jokingly linking Darth Vader with stereotypes of Data Governance teams as intrusive overlords.) 

However, it is ultimately person-to-person encounters that Hidalgo finds the most powerful when it comes to flipping the script on Data Governance’s reputation within the greater business community, so she devotes untold time and energy to literal town halls and roadshows that showcase her successes with Shaw.

Again, the greatest obstacle in evangelizing Data Governance is changing the narrative that Data Governance is ultimately a necessary evil or, like Darth Vader, a monolithic entity that overtakes operations with a single, static implementation. Instead, Hidalgo tells town hall attendees that “we actually are speeding you up. We’re telling you, yes, give me your information. Yes, we’re going to do this; going to do that. But it’s because we’re going to get all of this and help you. We make it exciting. And because I still have another 20,000 people that I’ve got to reach, we’re not even remotely close to being done.”

Want to learn more about DATAVERSITY’s upcoming events? Check out our current lineup of online and face-to-face conferences here.

Here is the video of the Data Governance & Information Quality Conference presentation:

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