A client recently asked me to summarize the benefits of data governance and the three main elements of data governance into two slides to leverage and use for an upcoming board meeting associated with their emerging program. A lot has been written about the benefits of data governance, and I am asked to articulate the benefits of the discipline by every client that is in the throes of convincing their management that data governance is necessary.
Regarding the three main elements of data governance, my thoughts immediately turned to the ‘ole People, Process and Technology paradigm. These three elements have been a regular topic of discussion for many organizations and are a staple of corporate slide decks everywhere.
Since my client asked me to summarize both the benefits and the elements, it made sense to turn these two topics into an article. In this article I share these summarized versions of the benefits and elements of data governance that I shared in the slides I produced. My hope is that, when you are asked the same questions that I was asked (and I am certain it will happen if it has not already), that you have a resource to turn to, to borrow my answers (with appropriate attribution to be certain).
Business Benefits of Data Governance
As many organizations evolve into digital enterprises, governed data (the results of a Data Governance Program) lies at the heart of their transformation. Governed data is used by digital enterprises to improve decision making. Governed data is the point of focus for organizations looking to increase operational effectiveness and efficiency while decreasing rework, defects and risk. Governed data is the asset that is leveraged to identify the most appropriate new products and services to build and sustain the customer base.
Governed data is used to recognize and build on the lifetime value of customers and products. Governed data is leveraged to improve the overall customer experience. Governed data is critical to achieving any of these goals. There is a laundry list of business goals that can be achieved by improving data quality and improving the organization’s confidence in the oil that flows through their systems pipelines. Just look at your organization’s vision, mission and goals. The benefits of governed data can be tied to all of these.
Data that is ungoverned and that the organization does not trust, causes the organization to devote valuable time and resources to locate, access, understand, and manipulate data, in order to perform any of the functions defined in the previous paragraphs. Formal governance, which I define as the execution and enforcement of authority over the definition, production and usage of data, builds consistency, trust and confidence in the most valuable resource required to function as a data-centric, or digitally transformed organization.
There are a lot of ways to list the benefits of data governance. In the list I was requested to produce, I chose to spell out the business benefits of data governance in six quick bullets. Benefits that an organization receives from governing their data results in:
- Formalized Accountability for Data: People will be recognized by the actions they take with data and will be held appropriately liable for consistently improved data oversight.
- Improved Operational Efficiency and Effectiveness: Value from the ability to decrease resource expenditure while achieving a higher level of quality and confidence in the data.
- Formalized Data Process: Data processes will be validated & reinforced assuring that the suited people are involved in following organizational best practices associated with governing data.
- Consistent Authority for Data: The process of assuring consistent decision making & prioritization of data opportunities will be enacted w/responsibility & liability at the forefront.
- Improved Data Quality, Understanding and Confidence: Formal governance of data will result in superior value from data, information (data w/context) and metadata (data about data).
- Reliable and Auditable Data Risk Management, Protection and Compliance: Dependable examination & reporting of the organization’s ability to follow the rules and laws associated with data.
The Data Governance Trifecta: People, Process and Technology
In some circles, the term “People, Process, and Technology” (otherwise known as “PPT”), refers to a methodology in which organizations balance these elements to drive the activities of the organization. People perform work using technology to modernize and improve the processes.
The PPT methodology has been around for more than fifty years. Many organizations use PPT to improve the operational efficiency of their employees. Many organizations consider PPT to be the three elements that are necessary to enable their successful transformation. As I mentioned earlier, your organization may be one of those that are looking for ways to make a digital transformation.
People, process and technology is an oft-used universal model for organizational improvement in almost every industry. The first element, people, can focus on using employees, contractors, advisors, consultants, suppliers, providers, and customers (to name a few) that must align with a subset of, what I refer to as, the Data Governance Bill of “Rights” . That subset is getting the “right” people involved in the “right” ways using the “right” data to make the “right” decisions.
The second element, process, is defined by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) as a set of interrelated activities characterized by a specific set of inputs and value added tasks that make up a procedure to deliver a specific set of outputs.1 When observing the end to end process, from suppliers all the way to the delivery of goods or services to the customer, it is essential to analyze the process, identify and reduce redundancy in order to have an efficient and effective process for the organization.
The third element, technology, focuses on the tools and techniques that are used to interconnect and provide that operational efficiency and effectiveness. This element often focuses on improving the organizational data resources and information systems, including their construction which is made up of hardware and software. Technology is simplified by the people element to support the processes element to enable the organization to operate efficiently and effectively. Technology is becoming the driving element that is empowering organization to seek out and achieve competitive advantage.
To summarize the three main elements of data governance into a single slide, and a series of brief and to-the-point bullets, I selected people, process and technology. The Board’s attention will be directed at how PPT must co-exist and collaborate to build a successful data governance framework that will drive the organization toward a result-driven data governance program. I spelled out the three main elements of data governance as:
- People: Data governance is the most effective tactic to formalize accountability for the manner in which people define, produce & use data to perform their job function.
- Process: Data governance applies formality to process to assure consistent execution & enforcement of authority over the definition, production & use of data.
- Technology: The use of data governance technology (primarily business glossaries, data dictionaries and data catalogs) will enable the organization to maximize the value of the organization’s people and processes that define, produce & use data.
Conclusion and What Comes Next
In responding to my client’s request to quickly and briefly summarize both the business benefits and the most important elements of data governance, I worded the bullets that I shared through this article with as few buzz words and data consultant jargon as possible. I directed the statements toward a senior leadership audience that will parse through these words quickly to find the meaning that they require to continue to support, sponsor and understand the activities of their designated Data Governance Officer and the data governance program.
The meeting where these bullets will be shared is going to take place in a couple of weeks. Thus far, my client seems happy with most of the wording about the business benefits and key elements of data governance. I hope this article has provided you insight, as well as statements you can use, if you are ever asked to summarize the business benefits and key elements of data governance for your organization.
This just in! Another client made a different request this evening. This client is struggling to find the necessary resources of people, time and money to move their data management function forward. Their request was for me to articulate the impacts and consequences of not building an enterprise information management (EIM) program that includes metadata management and data governance among other disciplines. Sounds like a second article may be in the works soon. Stay tuned.
1 American Society for Quality (ASQ), http://asq.org/glossary/p.html – 2014