There’s only one right way to do data governance


“Who said you can’t mandate data governance?” asked Carol Newcomb in her recent post Data governance by fiat. You can, she insists, but “not without the hard work of peeling apart and re-engineering so many different data supply chains that will always remind you that the world is indeed complex and three-dimensional.”

Some organizations try to skip that hard work and instead mandate data governance by making a man date with someone like Jack Bauer to enforce data governance. While it’s always tempting to resort to the dark side of the data governance force, as Data Stewardess Leia warned Data Governor Tarkin, “the more you tighten your grip, the more data management systems will slip through your fingers.”

“The toughest thing about starting data governance,” Newcomb explained, “isn’t just writing the rules and making sure everyone follows them. It starts with the way things have been cobbled together over time. Nobody designed this convoluted process intentionally — it evolved from many varied and repeated attempts to make the data work for a specific reason. Those workarounds persist in order to get the job done. They often reflect the way the organization operates. If you made a rule that won’t let me get my job done, then I’ll figure out a way to go right on doing it!”

This is why, if you want to avoid a data governance revolt, then you need to bolt on your thinking cap and come up with a way to implement flexible data governance rules that empower your organization with an understanding of the principles of your data governance policies, trusting people to figure out how best to enforce the policy in a particular context, how to bend the rule to fit the circumstance.

And as Nicola Askham recently blogged, well-documented data governance policies are vital, but you have to find good ways of communicating them to your organization. “Look for different ways to share your message,” Askham advised, “such as intranet sites, wikis, lunch time learning sessions and road shows. Use multiple channels and methods to get your message out there. It’s not going to stick and definitely not going to prompt a change in culture from just one delivery of the message.”

The bottom line is, whether your organization is starting top-down or bottom-up, while there are lots of wrong ways to implement data governance, doing data governance right is about realizing there’s only one right way — the way that will actually work within your organization.


About Author

Jim Harris

Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality (OCDQ)

Jim Harris is a recognized data quality thought leader with 25 years of enterprise data management industry experience. Jim is an independent consultant, speaker, and freelance writer. Jim is the Blogger-in-Chief at Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality, an independent blog offering a vendor-neutral perspective on data quality and its related disciplines, including data governance, master data management, and business intelligence.

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