3 Ways CDOs Can Create a Brilliant New Normal in Data Governance

Dec 08, 2022 |
Susan Wilson

GVP North America Solutions Leader 

My conversations with other data leaders at the Evanta CDO Executive Summit in New York last week were a great reminder of just how important it can be to leverage lessons learned — and how great it is to be able to return to in-person events. Cultivating a data-driven culture continues to be a challenge for data leaders, so just being able to get back and engage and dialog has become an especially valuable opportunity.

At last week’s event, I had the pleasure of introducing one of our customers, Kelly Symons, the SVP of Data Management and Quality with Mastercard. Kelly spoke about leveraging lessons learned and shared best practices for establishing a governance foundation.

Let Solutions Be an Enabler

Throughout our fireside keynote, Kelly emphasized how it’s all about the people, the process and the culture. She explained how it’s important to show people you care about them, not just the technology. Her presentation included some great examples of how CDOs are willing to talk about things even when they haven’t worked out. In the data leader community, there's an overwhelming sense of altruism: this works for me, may not work for you, but let me share anyway.

For her part, Kelly has found self-service is tricky, but it has reduced resource costs associated with having repetitive, inconsistent variations of the same information across the organization. Self-service has also helped to limit wasted tech capacity and data processing loads and improved response times for technical infrastructure.

People want exposure to different ideas and strategies because there is not a single playbook, and there really just can't be. A playbook might be 50% of what we all implement, but the other 50% is going to be based on the surety, the culture, the executive buy-in and stakeholder management. It’s a bit of both art and science.

Kelly shared how she focuses a lot on stakeholder management and spends a big portion of her time keeping her team, self-service analytics and governance top of mind. She identified how leveraging a federated stewardship model can deliver centralized program management and oversight. And we discussed the importance of having the “pitch” — the “what’s in it for you” — ready and customized for your audience.

Nurture Your Communities

We all understand how governance programs are a marathon, not a sprint. And one of the things that really resonates with me about Kelly’s story is how she knows she needs to nurture these communities. How it’s important to be selective about who should be a data steward. It needs to be a certain type of person — one with a certain gravitas and subject matter expertise — because they're change agents. Choosing the right data stewards helps her ensure that she can communicate the success, the milestones, and how they’ve been able to achieve them.

Kelly also makes a point of communicating to stakeholders about the business benefits achieved. This ensures that when it comes to budget season and cutting costs (because you want to show how you’re doing more with less), they will think, “Well, I don't know if I want to cut that.” That's important because we need data now more than ever.

And she spoke about how a data literacy program enhances awareness and fosters a data-driven culture. There’s a lot of art involved here. She brings them in right from the very beginning of governance by design, knowing the importance of collaboration and buy in. Kelly also encouraged the audience to get creative, stay connected and make sure that decisionmakers know what you’re doing and understand the value. She also reminded everyone that they should understand that this isn’t a once-and-done conversation but instead a series of updates and reminders. And, most of all, to celebrate the wins, even the small ones.

Be Ready to Do the Work

After Kelly’s keynote, I moderated an executive boardroom discussion that included Anurag Minocha, the Head of Data for JPMorgan Chase; Joe Vellaiparambil, the Chief Data and Analytics Officer for Equitable Financial; and Jim Young, the Global Chief Data Officer for AIG.

This session focused on CDOs connecting their organization’s knowledge workers with data they can rely on to make decisions. As a first step, they need to ensure that data can be trusted before enabling self-service access.

But even after all these years of data and experience, there are some data practitioners who are still a bit too enamored with technology and don’t clearly articulate the data story. They take the approach that, “If I get the best technology and if it does all of these things, everybody will come.” True data leaders can show how promoting data management practices to improve data utility and enable self-service will benefit your entire organization.

Reflections and Next Steps

Best practices are good. Real-life examples are even better. And no matter where we continue our dialog — in person at our executive summits, the MDM/Data Governance Summit, or at Informatica World or other 2023 events — it’s important to stay engaged and keep that dialog going.

If you’re interested in further exploring topics that are top of mind for CDOs, I encourage you to check out our CDO hub.