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Right Triangle Methodology for Data Governance

Gina Harris, Director of Data Governance

To maximize the value of data, this important organizational asset must be owned, cared for and shared.  These acts are collectively known as Data Governance, and they make the data more useful and easily understood. Though software tools can make this a “lighter lift,” Data Governance remains a “People & Process” engagement.

By establishing a Data Governance organization, data definitions are documented; stewards and owners are identified; and governance grows to become a corporate function that is part of the organization’s culture, not just something extra that’s added to your day.

So, why is Data Governance important?  Well, because…..

  1. It helps formalize activities that are likely already occurring.   Your company has data stewards – the people who understand the data and help others know how and when to use it – but they may not be formally or clearly identified by name or title. 
  2. It increases the confidence in data quality.  Data stewards understand and define data quality rules that can be automated with quality metrics that can be tracked over time.  As data consumers see the data quality trend improving, their confidence in the data improves, too.
  3. It delivers a context for understanding data assets.  Data definitions are published for consumers to access, and data’s use can be optimized through crowd-sourcing and ratings.

The Right Triangle Data Governance Framework is pictured below:

Remember, this is a People & Process engagement where people and processes are surrounded by tools and metrics. The Process layer includes planning and communication as well as policy management, like HIPAA and GDPR. The People are the Data Governance Team which consists of:

  • A Data Governance Council, which has decision-making authority
  • Data Stewards, who have ownership and accountability
  • A Core Team of collaborators who interact with the data, tools and each other, and who facilitate the Data Governance function. The Core Team may also constitute a Data Governance office or department

Data Governance tools form the foundation of the framework.  They provide consistency and scalability and can be used to:

  • Create a dictionary
  • Document policies
  • Display end-to-end lineage
  • Define quality rules
  • Catalog assets
  • Facilitate data governance workflow and automation

Metrics, on the other hand, represent the top layer of the Data Governance Framework.  Collaborators, owners, and stewards can use these metrics to track progress and measure the business value of Data Governance.

Even with a People & Process engagement in place, Data Governance is still hard work.  Stewards must collaborate with colleagues to define even basic terms like customer and product.  This may sound easy, but, trust me, it can be much harder than it sounds since some Data Governance activities can be manual and tedious. This is why the tools are so important.  They make many parts of the experience easier through their ability to automate, machine-learn and scale.

Most companies are very early in their Data Governance journey, or, they struggle with how to get started. 

My advice:

  • Don’t try to do it all at once
  • Just take the first step

Maybe you transition from having multiple versions of the truth to monitoring data for quality between applications.  If your company is advanced in its journey, you could proactively monitor and fix data as it enters a system.  Regardless of your organization’s current level of maturity, choose a handful of important assets and a team that cares about them.  Govern those assets well.  Build buy-in based on early, small wins.  Repeat the process with the next set of assets and then celebrate success as you watch the data culture grow.

Data Governance is a journey that will take both time and commitment.  But in the end, you will have a single version of the truth – one that is owned, cared for and shared – and your data will have become an enterprise asset that is governed and highly valued.