Earlier in the year I started writing a series that looked at Data Governance as an area of interest, and how this might relate to business. I am conscious that it has been a few months since adding to this series.
We started out with a general introduction to Data Governance, broadening the case with a more detailed examination and considered business motivators. It would be fair to say that that the topic is as enormous as it is well documented, and whilst books can be bought, there are significant volumes of information available free of charge via the internet. I’m sure those who have an interest in this area will be well versed in the principles and objectives. But as with anything, the difficulty is always in the implementation. However, with Data Governance there are the added difficulties of involving the wider business, finding consensus and the most challenging of challenges, changing culture. If you need an illustration of how hard this can be, then look no further than Europe! Not a model of cooperation.
Faced with such a challenge it is easy to turn back. Many do. But in spite of the difficulties consider the benefits, and more importantly the downside of not tackling those difficult choices. What’s more, there’s a better than reasonable chance that your competitors are already doing it.
Try getting the business to ask itself some searching questions. Is data organised and catalogued in a structured way? Are there procedures and methodology for implementing and tracking data in the organisation? Is there one and only one version of the truth, one view of our customer, one view of our investments? How many sporadic databases are there? How much work do we do in spreadsheets? Is it catalogued and controlled? Are we sure we are doing things in the most efficient way we know how? Many people still don’t appreciate how important data is. But when you consider that it’s the basis on which management makes its decisions, we start to understand. Reputations are so rarely built, but can so easily be destroyed on the basis of poor data. Would you offer life insurance to someone who had already passed? You’d be surprised at those who would, and have!
When your business begins to look at these areas, they’ll begin to realise that Governance, whilst not being perfect, is the only way that makes sense. Use it to integrate your business, to drive efficiencies, reduce errors and omissions and most importantly lower operating costs, and the cost of making changes across the business.
Some may ask, so what? If data isn’t organised and catalogued in a structured way, they’ll be no procedures or methodology for implementing and tracking data in the organisation. Time, effort and money is being lost in trying to find, report, and manage data. Knowing that there is one and only one version of the truth, that it is reliable and available, is vitally important to your business. Avoiding disparate and varied data sources keeps effort and confusion to a minimum. It means that management and employees can begin to put trust in their data (and avoid mishaps!). Having a better understanding, and control around data sources, also helps with scalability and integration with other sources of data and software. Governance can help you do that.
And whilst governance projects needn’t be expensive, they should be joined up, well thought out and above all, have the buy-in of everyone affected. They may involve software, but will always centre on people and processes. And whilst optimism and positivity have their place, we need to be open to those areas in the business that may not work as well as they should. And whilst it goes against the grain we need to keep a sceptical and enquiring mind, to ask that difficult question, could we do this better?