From the very moment we take our first breath we start creating data and information, the time of birth, our weight, height, heartbeat, and gender. As we grow older we gather additional data from experiences or events, analyse it, and then turn it into information that becomes valuable insights that drives key decisions in our lives. You see the one thing that never changes during this journey called life is the fact that we are human first before anything else and life just adds data and information to our identity.
My passion for Data and Information Governance started in 2014, and little did I know the adventure that awaited me on driving the maturity of the capability. I started off with first dissecting the topic in order to understand the true value that it could add to business, and most importantly what it meant to me as I needed to truly believe in its value.
Data and Information Governance is truly not a one size fits all capability and over the years I have had my fair share of frustrations, disappointments, and success stories. At the beginning of each year I would start off by saying that “this is the year of great things to come” and re-looked my data governance program in order to ensure its relevance, and that it remained current. It was taxing at times in the sense that I needed to get data owners and stewards in place, policies embedded, frameworks documented, and data standards that would be used to measure data quality. This however was not good enough and business never really hooked into the need as it was seen as yet another regulatory driven requirement that just added additional complexity to their lives. Data and Information Governance was never really seen as a true Strategic Business Partner.
2017 was the year of “Stealth Data Governance” where the approach was one of business needing to have the “Aha” moment and realise the need for having Data and Information Governance in place. This again presented its own unique challenges and success stories. Just as I thought that we had the right mix and a solid approach, business started to question the value of the capability or as some would like to refer to it as the “So What” or “We are already making billions as it is” moment.
In all honesty things really started to come together and “make sense” in 2018 and 2019. I was exposed to Systems Thinking, Creating Shared Value (CSV), and Situational Leadership II, and this truly introduced a new way of thinking, and a different dynamic to Data and Information Governance.
The 4 critical components of data governance
Any organisation is made up of multiple systems and the trick is to understand the impact or influence that Data and Information Governance has on these systems, both positive and negative. The key is to approach Data and Information Governance with business use cases, something that is close to their heart. It needs to be clear to business the critical link that Data and Information Governance adds to their system, and the true value that it adds in driving the right agenda.
Leadership is another critical component in the success of any organisation and creates new opportunities, markets, and thought leaders. When it comes to Data and Information Governance it is no different, and the right leadership style is crucial in changing the mind-set of the organisation, empowering and enabling business, and growing employees. Situational Leadership is a powerful model when you start looking at the maturity of your Data and Information Governance capability, as leaders can provide the appropriate leadership style based on the maturity of the organisation. The same applies to data owners and stewards where one needs to ensure that the right leadership style is used for the right situation or development need.
Your vision needs to be aspirational and shouldn’t purely be focused on Data and Information Governance. I personally try to avoid bringing in Data Governance into the vision and instead focus on empowering and enabling the organisation. It needs to be clear to the man in the street what you aim to achieve and what your desired state looks like.
Architecture was something I was relatively new to in the beginning of my journey and the more I got to understand the principles and concepts, the more I realised that it played a pivotal role in my journey to discovering true north. Architecture gives you a view of the current state and the transformation required to achieve your desired state. As part of the transformation architecture facilitates transitions to achieve the true north, and at times the true north may change due to circumstances or certain events.
Speak to the heart
The late and great Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.
This is a quote that spoke to my core and helped shape my thinking regarding metadata management and the role that Data and Information Governance plays. You see if you talk Data to business, it goes to their head. If you talk to business about driving a new competitive advantage and creating new markets based on accurate and trustworthy data, it goes to their hearts. Metadata drives a common understanding within an organisation and Data and Information Governance ensures the right structures are in place in the form of policies, standards, frameworks, and ownership models.
My journey thus far has truly been unique and with each year that goes by my passion for making a difference has grown tenfold. Data and Information Governance plays a pivotal role in creating new ways of thinking and identifying new markets, in fact it is becoming a true strategic business partner in the drive to create a new competitive advantage. The capability aims to break down the traditional data silos in order to open up the organisations data assets so that all users can find the data they need, collaborate on it, and make informed business decisions.
The below diagram describes my unique methodology and the product of my journey to discovering True North, and provides a view of what the desired state should look like. The intention is to create an ecosystem whereby Data and Information Governance becomes a crucial source to business success, and all it takes is for you to connect to the grid. I hope this article has been meaningful and will assist you with your Data and Information Governance Journey.
As the Senior Manager leading the data governance and metadata management journey for Standard Bank CIB, Neil Gage was responsible for translating the CIB data strategy into data governance strategies, frameworks and roadmaps.
Neil also chaired the Standard Bank Metadata Guild defining and advancing metadata principles across lines of business in the group.