The five signs your Data Governance activities are working

15th March 2022

Wondering how to kick start your Data Governance programme? You’re in luck then; there are an overwhelming number of books and articles on how to do exactly that. These include the classics from Rob Steiner on Non-Invasive Data Governance https://amzn.to/3q6BPCX and the thought-provoking John Ladley with the concisely titled book Data Governance https://amzn.to/3q6o3QV. The Oakland Group published an equally informative Data Governance by Stealth Guide http://bit.ly/393R86o. This tells you all the things you need to consider and helps you plan for getting up and running, and critically that you don’t need loads of investment to do it! It also sets out how to ensure you align your data governance strategy to your broader data strategy.

This guide is a great resource to get you started, but there is little information available on how you can measure the success of all of your hard work. Sure, these books tell you all about the formal stuff you need to show your stakeholders at the relevant Data Councils, Committees, and Forums how you are doing. Things like how the number of open data issues are coming down month on month, how many data quality issues have been fixed in the quarter, or how many employees have read the Data Governance policy in the e-learning module. All critical ways to formally demonstrate that your efforts are having an impact.

But since successfully landing Data Governance into any organisation is really about winning people’s hearts and minds, the success of any Data Governance programme is not just about the positive movement against an agreed set of KPIs on a dashboard. It is that emotional connection or the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from talking to the people within your organization when you know your efforts are cutting through.

This is actually the thing that will really help you judge that the Data Governance activities you have instigated are being embedded into your business. These are those soft but hard to quantify things that you sense within an organisation as it progresses on its Data Governance journey.

Coffee Conversations

Downtime at work is important, and what better way to spend it than stopping off for a coffee and having a chat with your colleagues? Generally, the stuff that people talk about in these breaks are the burning topics that are closest to their hearts. Hearing them talking about data quality, data governance, and master metadata data at these break times will be an excellent barometer of whether your efforts are paying dividends. And whether they are positive or negative comments too!

Uninvited Attendees

Meetings and workshops are part and parcel of modern working life regardless of whether you are remote or face to face. Getting Data Governance up and running requires numerous and regular meetings with stakeholders and colleagues to ensure there is an agreed, ongoing and collaborative approach to delivery. Usually, we try to limit those attendee’s meetings to avoid meetings for the meeting’s sake and ensure only those who need to be there are involved. But from my experience, another great temperature check is when people you haven’t invited ask to attend or turn up regardless. This can be challenging to manage, but treat it as a positive as it means the message about Data Governance is getting out there.

Taking Note

Much data governance relies on people reading and following the required policies and frameworks. So many measures used to determine the success of Data Governance judge this being the number of people who have read the policy or framework or percentage completing a Data Governance learning module. But simply clicking to say they have read the Data Governance policy is not the same as saying someone has actually understood what they have read and, consequently, is changing their behavior to comply with that policy. This is a difficult one to judge – and it is not specific to Data Governance – but talk to some of the people who claim to have read it and get a sense of whether they have just skimmed it and not taken it in. You will very quickly get a sense of whether the policy has been read and understood, is impacting people, and how much you are winning hearts and minds!

Unexpected Volunteers

Effective Data Governance is heavily reliant on having robust data ownership across an organisation. So much time and effort is spent on working out the right structure for data owners, stewards, and custodians. It is central to the success of any Data Governance initiative. But it is when either those individuals and or those not in those nominated roles start to offer up their time and services to help with taking the data agenda forward you will know that employee attitudes and behaviours are, in fact, changing in your business.

Is there a Buzz?

We have all walked into organisations and been able to judge a business’s atmosphere or mood very quickly – or put another way, is there a buzz about the place? Evaluating the effectiveness of your Data Governance programme is no different – can you sense a positive or negative atmosphere to what you are doing? Are people talking up the data quality issues they are working on or moaning about the amount of time and effort it takes to tick the Data Governance and Data Protection box? What sort of language are people using when you talk to them about it? Listen and observe.

In summary, effective Data Governance is all about winning the hearts and minds of your teams. We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of just using data tools and techniques that show the formal progress of an initiative on a dashboard to please the Data Council and miss those “warm and fuzzy” indicators that are all around us. Ultimately, it should be a blend of the two.

Andrew Sharp

Data Governance Lead