The Information Management field is novel and practitioners are struggling to architect data governance programs that drive operational integrity, give organizational credence, and enable program sustainability.
Ask anyone deeply entrenched in implementing a Data Management program and they will tell you that Data Governance is a warzone. You are constantly under fire from your organizational partners as you tackle the change management issues.You are bombarded by the bouts of fast developing regulatory frameworks. You are pounded by ever-changing systems and technology artifacts. You line up your governance standards but your best soldiers, the data trustees, are busy fighting other wars. When the pressure becomes unbearable, you play defensive, only to find out that your budgets are being questioned by the CFO office. So what is going wrong with the way we are approaching governance, and how can we fix those problems? Very simply, how can we win the data governance war? This article will answer both of these questions.
Since we used the word war to set up this article, it is only fair to begin with two highly relevant quotes from Sun Tzu. The first is “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” The second quote is “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” The first quote applies to making an accurate assessment of your surrounding realities and the second focuses on the power of planning right. Let us address these two issues as they apply to data governance.
Know thy Data Governance Challenges
We have analyzed the data governance programs across several companies and have developed a list of twelve critical challenges facing the program offices.
- Manual: Face it, governance is a highly manual process. Writing standards and procedures, conducting customized analysis, and developing organizational structures is a highly manual process. The labor intensive nature of the process not only leads to excruciatingly painful delays but also traps the programs in the trenches dug in quicksand. The harder you try to get out, the more trapped you get. Soon your program loses momentum and you stay stuck and paralyzed right at the first step.
- Resource Intensive: If you want to do it right, you would need an army of data scientists, analysts, and managers to help drive and sustain program momentum. This means significant upfront investment. Typically it is a tough sell to justify building an organization which cannot easily demonstrate its bottom line value. Lining up that type of an army often results in other functional organizations questioning the value contribution of data governance.
- Value Definition as an After Thought: Defining value typically becomes an afterthought. The value concept dawns only when the news of sluggish movement of data governance programs reaches the operating and financial executives – both trained to seek value in every activity undertaken by business enterprises. When value is questioned, that is when data management executives rush to find ways to demonstrate the value of their programs.
- Disjointed: Programs often focus on what data “is” vs. focusing on what data “does”. What data “does” is a totally different perspective and a new paradigm. It alters the entire thinking about governance. But as of now, we are trapped in the old paradigm of fixing data errors and defining data quality in the narrowest possible terms. When we approach governance that way we isolate ourselves from the rest of the organization.We seem far more concerned about fixing errors vs. ascertaining operational integrity of our companies.
- Ad Hoc Activities: Governance programs are often implemented as a mishmash of tasks defined by organizational realities and political considerations rather than business value and risk based prioritization. Various departmental programs are launched at a business unit or function levels. These programs are often uncoordinated, have no enterprise vision, and sometimes even result in competing priorities or goal conflicts. Misalignment leads to unnecessary confusion and lack of performance.
- Formal Structure: Structurally, the methodology of implementing governance is not defined in a modular structure. Hence, no best practices are available to formalize the implementation and give structure to implement programs in a stepwise and staged manner.
- Scalable: When confronted with new regulatory challenges or sudden business centric changes (for example mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, etc.) the governance program executives discover that the programs are inherently un-scalable. When this dawns on them the only strategy left in the toolbox is to throw more heads to do the job. This is not a sound approach.
- Repeatable: Do we really need to reinvent the wheel? When data governance programs are not designed with a mindset that keeps future battles in consideration, each battle becomes a learning ground of its own. You have the choice to design the programs in a manner where all the work you do becomes repeatable for future tasks and challenges. Embedding repeatability in your programs is by design, not luck.
- Slow and Sluggish: Still trying to get on the calendars of your trustees? After weeks of agonizing effort to get your trustees in a room, the bombshell is thrown at you. You find out that some people didn’t like the procedure or the standard you spent months to develop. And now you have to go back to the design table. This slothful pace, which is often beyond your control, really destroys the program momentum.
- Expensive: With all of the above going on, it is no wonder that high-impact programs tend to be expensive. Programs that receive funding end up paying too much while those that don’t receive major funding end up taking smaller offices and disappear in the corporate ghettos. Both create waste and missed opportunities.
- Dependent on SME: The governance programs tend to be SME dependent and therefore you are working around the vacation schedules and day-job work calendars of your trustees. After a while, they are as annoyed at you as you get on yourself for leading the data management programs. Your emails are ignored and your calls get lost in the depths of the voice mail. You are stuck as you can’t move forward without your SME, while your SME would give anything to get that monkey off his or her back.
- Significant Change Management: When they don’t see the value, they are not convinced that your program is either necessary or important for them. Corporate teams are trained to think about the immediate future and rapid results. When you talk about a slow and tedious journey to build a bridge to nowhere, they get both impatient and confused. The incredible tools in your toolkit, for example metadata or master data management, mean nothing for them unless you can show them a path to tangible value. Due to the above realities, like entropy, the chaos around the programs builds up and then the entire thing explodes. New management teams, under the guidance of visionary leaders and concerned board members, are brought in and the entire battle starts again. Regardless of how motivated or experienced the new teams are, unfortunately, the odds of securing a victory remain disappointingly low. And the saga continues.
Now that you have an accurate assessment of the realities surrounding your governance programs, let us focus on the second instruction of Sun Tzu: How can we win the war before the war begins? Winning Before the War Begins We are confident that the above-mentioned challenges can be overcome and the governance battle can be won by implementing the governance program via automation. Our platform, AiPost Governance Management, can assure you of a painless and rapid victory. Let us look at some of the benefits that can be achieved via automated governance platform:
Automate: Yes, you don’t need to implement your program as if you are participating in Attila the Hun battle. You are living in the second decade of the 21st century. Welcome the transformational technology that is enabling efficient and rapid deployment of governance programs. AiPost’s Governance engine automates the entire process of governance and offers tools that can give you a powerful implementation. Having access to the platform means having a modularized and structured approach to implement programs. No more guessing or shooting arrows in the dark. Your program progresses through a highly disciplined process and milestones are achieved with precision-guided accuracy.
Accelerate: Technology enables you to have access to actionable information, built-in knowledge, and best practices. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and everything you do becomes repeatable and scalable. No matter what happens with the regulatory environment or the business, your program is robust to withstand any challenges. Most importantly, you can move at an electrifying speed.
Energize: Technology platform is also a powerful tool to recruit, motivate, and energize the teams working on your projects. As you speed up the process, it energizes everyone touched by your programs. You don’t need to sit there and wait for people to approve your requests or for SME’s to cut short their vacations to help you out. The automation and knowledge platforms are industry and regulatory framework compliant and hence minimize the need for domain expertise. Thousands of examples of pre-existing rules, standards, and procedures mean all the groundwork has already been done for you.
Optimize: Having a powerful collaborative platform now gives you the opportunity to increase the efficiency of the program – the improvement potential that can never be achieved through a manual process. With efficient allocation of resources, repeatable and scalable processes, and built in knowledge frameworks, you can drive unparalleled value for your companies.
Monetize: Linking your programs with real value creation is one of the most important missing elements of data management programs. Governance only goes halfway. To go through the full value cycle, governance programs have to focus on what data “does” and not just on what data “is”.
The automation platform can give you the power to create and demonstrate actual, bottomline impacting, power of data. In summary, the data governance war can be won before the war begins by implementing the program through an automated governance platform. Automation increases the likelihood of success and minimizes risks. With all the data coming your way, data governance is a battle you can’t afford to lose.