Doing data governance the right way

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As an analytics giant (and, full disclosure, my new employer), SAS has always been in the forefront of advanced analytics and data mining. But the topics of data governance and data management are emerging competencies for SAS – and  topics that continue to find new audiences like the one at the Premier Business Leadership Series last week in Las Vegas.

In an interactive workshop called “Doing Data Governance the Right Way,” noted industry analyst and consultant Jill Dyché introduced data governance with a frank discussion of the  political pressures and ownership issues that accompany corporate information. “But,” she said, “data governance can be the vehicle for bringing business and IT groups together, often for the first time.”

What? Business and IT aligning around data? Jill went on to relate examples of companies that had done just that, using pervasive data challenges to gain consensus on what Jill defines as “the policy-making and oversight of corporate information.”

In a poll, half of the audience admitted they hadn’t started data governance yet. Questions ranged from where to start (“Find a need, pain or problem that is data enabled,” Jill advised) to how to convince executives that data governance was a critical need. “Tie data governance to corporate strategy…executives won’t say no,” she said, rattling off several real-life examples of how C-level executives funded data governance on the spot once they saw how their strategies would be data-enabled.

A few cautionary tales  warned the audience  against the mistakes other companies have made that can doom a data governance initiative. Try these tips to do it the right way:

  • Define data governance in the context of your business and your needs. It’s not enough to assume that people understand what Jill called “the G word.”
  • Show stakeholders “what it looks like here.” That means not just defining data governance, but designing it. There’s not a single template for data governance success.
  • Don’t overlook cultural considerations. Some companies have very top-down cultures, where every initiative is executive-sponsored and funded before it begins. Others need to show “proof of value,” which might mean starting data governance with what Jill called an SCP, or “small, controlled project,” that shows results quickly.
  • Embed execution capabilities. Many executives aren’t even aware of the data management activities taking place in their organizations. Highlight successes in data quality, metadata or data modeling if you’ve had them.
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About Author

Tamara Dull

I’m the Director of Emerging Technologies on the SAS Best Practices team, a thought leadership organization at SAS. While hot topics like 3D printing and self-driving cars keep me giddy, my current focus is on big data, privacy, and the Internet of Things – the hype, the reality and the journey. I jumped on the technology fast track 30 years ago, starting with Digital Equipment Corporation. Yes, this was before the internet was born and the sci fi of yesterday became the reality of today.

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