Don’t be a “governator”.

A recent BI conference highlighted the different approaches to data governance proposed by theorists, and those proposed by experienced practioners. The theorist’s approach – like the Terminator series of robots from the movies – appears to have been custom designed with one goal – to completely destroy the principles of data governance. I call this the “governator” approach – to govern to the destruction of the governance process.

This approach is characterised by a focus on “big organisation” – lots of people, lots of documentation, lots of process, lots of time, and…lots of money.

Our alternative approach to data governance is based on three simple principles:

  1. You must be focussed on the end goal of delivering business value. Every decision the data governance organisation asks should be preceded by the simple question – “Is this going to make us money or save us money?”
  2. Less is more (or keep it simple). Further to the point 1, if you have a choice between a simple, cost effective process and a bloated bureaucracy then always choose the former. Yes, it is important to document critical standards, ensure a common data dictionary and definitions of terms, etc – but only in so far as data is supporting the objective of driving business value. Not all data is equally valuable and not all data is worth governing.
  3. Make appropriate use of data quality and data governance technology solutions to support your process. Without meaningful metrics your process will become subjective and both issue management and root cause analysis will be very difficult, if not impossible.

The theorist’s approach often ends up as a bloated, ineffective group of committees meeting periodically to complain or theorise about data issues. This is the best possible way to kill off the concept of data governance within your organisation. In most cases, business will loose interest and resist the governator approach.

Unfortunately, once this has happened data governance will struggle to regain credibility and the real benefits that data governance can bring to your organisation may be lost for ever. Learn from the mistakes of early adopters and, like Arnie’s character in the movies, you’ll be back.

This post was originally published in the dataqualitymatters blog and iweek magazine

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