Data as an asset comes up a lot in conversations these days. Data Governance enters the picture because of the huge role Data Strategy plays in supporting the business strategy – and the need for that to happen without compromising data security, according to Mary Levins, Data Governance Principal at Sierra Creek Consulting.
Among the foundational requirements for a successful Data Governance program are focusing on Data Quality, standards management, policies, procedures, and accountabilities in alignment with business goals. But there’s more to it, too. “We don’t hear enough about culture,” stated Cassie Elder, Co-founder, Principal, Data Strategist and Data Scientist at DataCraft Partners. “It’s the most important factor to consider when you are leading a Data Governance program.”
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Respecting culture across the Data Governance journey means considering factors such as people, processes, and shared values, beliefs and norms, explained Levins and Elder during a presentation at the DATAVERSITY® Enterprise Data World (EDW) Conference. “Norms” are how things are done in an organization; “behavior” equates to a belief turned into action; and “values” are the fundamental principles by which an organization operates. Those starting on the road to Data Governance are advised to make culture assessment a priority in the first phase of their efforts – that is, the discovery and assessment of the current state of data; the efforts that will be needed to put data governance requirements and business objectives on a parallel track; and agreement among all involved in moving forward in the same direction. That way, they can design the right data governance program to fit the culture type.
Levins broached the topic of how to identify and organization’s core culture type. The task can involve the observation of the corporate mission statement and conducting surveys of employees or reviewing past surveys. A people-oriented company that is focused on today probably has a collaborative culture, for example, while a competence culture may be found within a future-focused business. “Most organizations don’t fall very neatly in[to] one area,” she noted. “So, think about strengths and pitfalls to understand where your organization mostly falls.”
In collaborative cultures, where harmony and team synergies take a front seat, Data Governance teams should think about conducting stakeholder analysis and building partnerships across different business units to drive necessary changes, while developing trust with all these parties in the process. Often these types of companies are service-oriented, such as in healthcare, and have more of a focus on short-term needs, like developing good patient- and team member-experiences. So, they may have a hard time adapting to a long-term Data Governance roadmap.
Implementing a digital Data Governance dashboard may help here, defining planning activities that tie to the entity’s principal values, and tallying progress on them. In a collaborative culture where everyone wants to share their input, it’s also easy to wind up in a “paralysis by analysis” state. This can be addressed with efforts such as measuring the number of decisions made in Data Stewardship councils and committees, and including that number in meeting minutes; having measurements for all to see can help to keep things moving.
In competency cultures – often businesses that fall in the manufacturing and engineering vertical – that want to realize a future of possibilities, cultural aims are to hire the best talent and to be able to take great pride in the work. These cultures tend to love strategy and planning for the long-term, and appreciate applying institutional wisdom for competitive advantage – strengths for Data Governance roadmaps. But a concern here is over-planning, which doesn’t work well for Data Governance in the age of digital transformation.
Data Governance teams may want to switch by adopting Agile principles to achieve shorter-term deliverables that bring value and that can be continuously iterated. Competency culture business’ preference for models, theories, and ideas can be a pitfall, too, requiring Data Governance leaders to consider how to better communicate real-world work that will get these organizations to adopt a practical Data Governance vision and values.
In fact, no matter what the culture, “a communications plan is incredibly important,” Elder said. “To evangelize and market your program in terms of the value it creates for the organization and its culture, frame your communications for it in the most effective way,” whether that’s handing out boxes of M&Ms to engage people in collaborative cultures or preparing detailed memos of Data Governance activities and advancements for those in competence cultures.
“Once you know your core culture, [the advantage is] it won’t feel like you’re forcing it across the organization,” Levins said. That puts Data Governance pros in a better position for some of the trickier parts of the Data Governance journey, including operationalizing and sustaining Data Governance.
Take the Data Governance Test
Data Governance vendor erwin notes that the five key areas of readiness for adopting Data Governance – beyond choosing technology to support it – are initiative sponsorship, organizational support, team resources, Data Management methodology, and delivery capability. Taking Data Governance beyond the realm of technology represents a “cultural shift,” as erwin Product Marketing Manager Danny Sandwell describes it.
Shortly before the company unveiled the latest version of its erwin DM NoSQL solution that now supports the Couchbase Data Platform, it released the Data Governance Redichek, a free app for organizations to rate their Data Governance readiness. The app takes users through some 30 questions broken into the five key areas, Sandwell says, providing feedback based on answers as users progress through the app and giving an overarching score at the end, as well as recommendations of next steps to take to move forward.
The response to it so far has been great, according to Sandwell:
“Everyone knows Data Governance is good thing but no one knows how to get there. Not a lot of people are talking about getting you through that hump.”
Data managers have a hard time articulating to non-Data Management what it takes, and the app helps them build a business case to improve the status of Data Governance efforts. “Redichek helps people corral and articulate the value back to their organization and get deeper to become true partners in the business,” he says.
During an EDW Conference session on The Leader’s Data Manifesto, which was developed in part to develop cultures that put data on par with other assets, the point was made that managing data can’t happen without Data Governance. As John Ladley, one of the developers of the Manifesto, phrased it, “The more you deal with this, the more people recognize the need for Data Governance.”
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