4 Ways Change Management Is Key to Effective Data Governance Adoption

Last Published: Oct 05, 2023 |
Melanie Parker-Barnes
Melanie Parker-Barnes

Principal Advisory Consultant

One of the most important (but often underappreciated) elements of a successful data governance program is change management. Change management is vital for team members to participate in an organization’s data governance initiative. It helps organizations manage resistance and makes transitioning to effective data management practices easier. This can be achieved by educating stakeholders about the value of data governance and ensuring team members are on board with the changes.

In this article, we provide guidance for successfully implementing a data governance program. We outline four critical areas for change management that are crucial to this success:

1.    Building Awareness and Understanding 

Building awareness for a data governance program is essential to ensure its success and adoption within an organization. To gain their support, stakeholders must understand that governance helps provide decision-makers with timely access to the required trusted, relevant data. They need to comprehend that it ultimately allows them to perform their jobs better and leads to improved strategic planning and execution, advancing overall business outcomes.

Here are some practical steps you can take to build awareness for your data governance program:

  • Define clear objectives and benefits. Clearly articulate the goals and advantages of the data governance program. Explain how it will help the organization improve data accuracy, compliance, security and overall data quality. Highlight the potential positive impacts on decision-making, operational efficiency and risk exposure reduction.
  • Create a compelling narrative. Develop a relatable narrative explaining why data governance matters. Use real-life examples, case studies and anecdotes to show how poor data management can lead to adverse outcomes (and vice versa) and how the program can help avoid those situations.
  • Tailor communication for different audiences. Craft tailored messages for other stakeholder groups. Executive leadership, IT, data stewards and end-users have different concerns and motivations. Address their specific needs and concerns in your communication.
  • Develop clear and simple messaging and visuals. Create concise, easy-to-understand messaging that communicates the program's key points. Avoid jargon and technical terms that could confuse non-technical stakeholders. Also, develop visual materials such as infographics, videos and presentations that effectively convey the benefits and processes of data governance. Visual aids can simplify complex concepts and make them more appealing.
  • Use multiple communication channels and communicate regularly. Keep stakeholders informed about the program's progress, achievements and any changes by employing a mix of communication channels to reach a broad audience. This could include email newsletters, intranet announcements, town hall meetings, webinars, posters and social media platforms. Regular communication demonstrates that the program is active and making a positive impact.
  • Provide training and resources. Offer training sessions, workshops and resources to help employees understand the program's importance and how they can contribute. Training can empower them to follow data governance practices in their daily work.

Remember that building awareness and understanding is an ongoing process. Consistent communication, engagement and illustrating the tangible benefits of data governance will help embed it as an essential practice within the organization.

2.    Managing Resistance and Overcoming Barriers 

Managing resistance to change is essential when implementing data governance in an organization. Introducing new processes and policies and adjusting existing workflows can cause resistance, which can negatively impact the success of your data governance initiative. This can result in several adverse consequences, including:

  • A lack of adoption and compliance with the established policies causes inconsistent data management practices, data quality issues and security vulnerabilities.
  • Accountability issues such as confusion about who owns what data and who is responsible for its reliability (since data governance assigns roles and responsibilities for data management).
  • Reduced adoption of streamlined data-related processes and workflows, leading to inefficiencies and wasted resources.
  • Cultural misalignment, which can make it challenging to achieve the desired outcomes, as the program may require a unified shift towards a more data-driven mindset.

To manage resistance to change in the context of data governance, as mentioned in the previous section, you should communicate its purpose and benefits clearly and provide training and resources as necessary. This helps stakeholders understand the benefits to both the organization and individuals. 

Also, be sure to listen to and address concerns raised by stakeholders. Addressing fears and misconceptions can help improve adoption.  It encourages active involvement from various stakeholders. They can provide feedback based on their experiences, helping to refine the change strategies and identify areas that need further attention. This collaborative approach increases the chances of successful change implementation.

Celebrating program milestones and achievements and highlighting success stories also helps reduce resistance. Recognize the efforts of individuals and teams who contribute to the success of the data governance program. And share success stories and quick wins related to data governance. Demonstrating positive outcomes will encourage others to get involved and adopt best practices.

Finally, include the stakeholders in the decision-making process and gather their input. This gives them a sense of ownership and reduces feelings of imposition.

3.    Engaging Stakeholders and Encouraging Participation 

Engaging stakeholders and encouraging participation in data governance is crucial for the effective management, quality assurance and ethical use of data within an organization. Why?

To be successful, data governance efforts should be aligned with an organization's strategic objectives. Involving stakeholders helps to ensure that data practices are designed to support business goals, making data an enabler of growth rather than a hindrance.

Additionally, involving stakeholders helps organizations consider diverse perspectives when making decisions about data usage, quality, privacy policies and other data management aspects. This leads to more well-rounded and informed choices aligning with the organization's goals and values. Encouraging stakeholder feedback and input shows that their opinions are valued and can improve the program's implementation.

Engaging stakeholders also fosters a culture of data literacy, trust and transparency within the organization. When stakeholders participate in discussions about data governance, they better understand data sources, definitions and processes, enabling them to use data more effectively in their roles. And when end-users are part of the data governance process, it promotes transparency in data handling. This transparency builds trust amongst subject matter experts (SMEs), employees and customers, as they can see that the organization is committed to responsible data management.

Lastly, securing sponsorship from senior executives is critical. Having support from these stakeholders adds credibility, encourages various departments across the organization to prioritize data governance and further ensures the alignment of the data governance program to the organization’s goals.

Encouraging stakeholder participation in data governance ultimately enables organizations to become more data-driven. When stakeholders understand the value of data and their role in its responsible management, they are more likely to embrace data-driven decision-making.

4.    Monitoring Data Governance Progress for Continuous Improvement

Monitoring your data governance program progress provides visibility into the implementation of changes. It allows stakeholders to understand the status of various initiatives, providing transparency and accountability. This outcome builds trust among employees, teams and leaders, helping to drive change and program adoption.

During data governance program implementation, some adjustments may be necessary along the way. By monitoring progress, you can identify any deviations from the planned path early in the process. This enables you to take corrective actions promptly, preventing potential setbacks and ensuring the change process stays on track.

Employees and teams may encounter challenges while adapting to new data governance practices. Regular monitoring can provide an opportunity to offer support, guidance and training to help them overcome these difficulties. This support enhances engagement, reduces frustration and increases the likelihood of successful change adoption.

And always measure the success of your change initiatives. You should define key performance indicators (KPIs) and track them over time to assess whether you are achieving the desired outcomes. Implement mechanisms to measure the impact of the data governance program on data quality, compliance, overall organizational performance, etc. This measurement helps validate the effectiveness of your change strategies and provides insights for continuous improvement. Share these metrics to demonstrate the program's value in terms of improved operational efficiency and reduced costs. 

Change Management: Essential for Data Governance Program Success

Data governance is an ongoing process that needs to adapt to changes in technology, regulations and business needs. Appropriately involving stakeholders allows the organization to stay agile and adjust its data practices as necessary.

In summary, active change management and ongoing program monitoring enhance transparency, enable course correction, mitigate risk, support employees and foster communication. All these factors contribute to a more effective and sustainable implementation of organizational data governance changes.

Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about enabling data governance program success, check out our Data Strategy Playbook, as well as our Cloud Data Governance Adoption Guide: 8 Best Practices for Success.

First Published: Oct 05, 2023