Data Governance: 5 Ways to Overcome Resistance & Meet Goals

Your data is the lens on almost everything about your business. Proper data governance is the best way to keep that lens clean, functional and useful.

Most people in your organization need data to do their jobs effectively. That means data governance is more than just a function to keep data reliable, safe, accurate and accessible at all times. It’s the root of operational existence.

“An effective data governance plan is … a cultural change for the organization, in which the business leaders and staff members assume responsibility for the proper definition, usage and management of the data and information contained within the enterprise,” says Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., principal consultant at Alabama Yankee Systems LLC.

A complete governance plan needs to cover the whole data lifecycle, and it must include a defined strategy for collecting, using, maintaining and storing data.

Every business will have a different data governance strategy based on its size, industry, scope and the confidentiality of the data. But, regardless of the approach used, most businesses will share one common hurdle: confusion and resistance from people within the organization who aren’t as hands on with using data.

These data governance best practices from Oracle can help any organization overcome challenges and achieve success:

1. Start Small With a Holistic View

People, politics and policies can get in the way of data governance, so whether you’re building a plan from the ground up or improving an existing one, you’ll need to focus on the potential roadblocks.

Start with an end in mind, knowing you’ll need to take several steps to reach the level you ultimately want. That way, you can balance your objectives with any compromises you’ll need to make when you encounter resistance.

2. Get a Sponsor

Any data governance plan needs resources – usually more than what the top brass will want to give. You’ll need a champion (or one from each core functional area of your company) to get initial support and maintain momentum.

Work with someone who already has a grasp on the importance of data. Or find someone who is enthusiastic about the potential of a proper data governance plan.

3. Define the Plan Early and Often

Many people within an organization are afraid of data for several reasons: It’s overwhelming, a threat to the status quo, too complex, or a combination of the three.

That’s why it’s important to lay out what information you want to gather, analyze and act on – plus how and when you’ll do so.

Oracle notes that some companies will want to create an official “data steward” role to lead this effort. Others will need more of an ad-hoc leader and group with members from different departments to serve as a “data steward team.”

The most important part in either situation: The people who get involved at the leadership level should have clearly defined and delegated duties so the right amount of time is allocated to data governance. Their expertise can help you maintain control of your data governance plan, create a vision and educate all employees on it.

4. Build Your Business Cases

Most data governance programs don’t show effects or benefits right away. Yes, they pay off in various ways in the long run, but that doesn’t help convince already reluctant people in the initial stages.

So early on, when you’re vying for support or reporting results, focus on the relationship between the most important data you’ll be using and the specific areas it’ll support. Provide people with the cost of managing data, as well as information about the risk of doing business without the correct data.

For instance, if people don’t know the cost of losing a customer – or a customer’s lifetime value – they might not understand the impact service efficiency has on the bottom line.

5. Measure and Report Progress

One of your first projects should be to pick a combination of tactical, quick wins for data governance. Even better, make them part of a long-term strategic improvement plan. That way, when you’re building and winning support through early wins, you’ll also be moving toward a greater good.

When you measure and report the returns on quick wins, you should get positive feedback and keep people interested in the data governance program and its goals.

You might want to share information such as data value, the cost to manage the data before and after the governance initiative, and the number and effectiveness of decisions made.

Also important: Share what you’ve measured, learned and achieved in ways the audience can connect with. Giving raw data to people who work directly with customers won’t go over as well as painting the big picture. And sharing anecdotal results with the finance team isn’t as effective as showing the numbers. Know your audience and what resonates with them.

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