Data Governance Framework Walkthrough: Vision and Business Case

Last Published: Dec 23, 2021 |
Rob Karel
Rob Karel

data governance

In my previous post I introduced our data governance framework.  Now it’s time to dive a bit deeper into each of the individual facets. I start with the “Vision and Business Case” facet because that’s exactly where your data governance efforts should begin. No point in trying to align your people, process, and technology components if you’ve yet to identify what you’re hoping to accomplish. 

So let’s start by reviewing a few examples of how NOT to position a data governance vision to senior leadership. “With data governance, we’re going to…”

- “Deliver a 360 degree view of a customer” 

- “Eliminate duplicate product SKUs” 

- “Improve data quality” 

- “Protect sensitive data” 

But wait - these all sound like great things to do! Have I lost my mind? Maybe - but not about this. J  Data governance is not about the data.  It’s about the business processes, decisions and stakeholder interactions you want to enable.  This means your vision and business case must clearly articulate the business opportunity – not just the “data” opportunity. That doesn’t mean that the data isn’t relevant, of course it is - but it’s the “means”, not the “end”

So what’s the different between a vision and a business case?

Your vision defines your broader strategic objective.

Any strategic effort – not just data governance and information management - should establish and evangelize a foundational vision for all stakeholders that clearly define the business goals and objectives. You may choose a vision statement that is actionable and specific, such as “Create an optimal customer experience by reducing the time to resolve support issues, delivering better targeted and relevant marketing, and ensuring sensitive customer data is protected and used appropriately.” 

>As an alternative, Jim Collins introduced in his classic book “Built to Last”, compelling vision statements that he called “big hairy audacious goals” (BHAG).  These are meant to inspire and challenge your organization to break from its legacy, core identity to achieve something extraordinary.    You may be familiar with some well-known, data-centric corporate BHAG visions from the likes of Google (“Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”) and Twitter (“Become the pulse of the planet.”)  A vision statement is used to set an ultimate destination, but the business case must outline how you should start your journey to get there.

Your business case identifies specific business opportunities to focus your efforts.

Your vision should look well into the future (3-5 years minimum) in terms of the business value the data governance investments can deliver. But your business case must be pragmatic.  Which prioritized business processes, decisions or interactions will be influenced and how will actual value be delivered?  For example, the sample organization that defines the vision I used above may build a quantitative business case focusing on just three targeted customer-facing processes: 1) productivity improvements by reducing average handle time in the call center’s inbound support line, 2) revenue growth by increasing campaign response rate and lower direct marketing costs, and 3) reducing enterprise risk by more effectively masking and securing customer information.  

To round out your business case you should consider qualitatively discussing other parts of the business that will benefit from these improvements, or mention future phase opportunities that you can quantify later - but don’t feel you must quantify the value to every potential dependent process.  That’s boiling the proverbial ocean.   The business case requirements will differ based on your executive budgeting approval requirements, but in many cases you only need to confirm that your “first phase” benefits will exceed your costs with returns in a ‘reasonable’ amount of time. (Definition of “reasonable” varies based on your sponsors. Some expect return in 6 months or less, while others recognize it could take well over a year or more. Good luck with this part!)  Success in the first phase will build the momentum for your phase 2 business case and beyond. 

So which business processes, decisions or interactions will in fact have the greatest impact?   While still an analyst with Forrester I had fun writing a blog post titled “The Crossroads Of Meaningless Clichés: The Key To Scoping MDM And Data Governance”.   I’ve further refined the message from that post and have a few questions I recommend data governance evangelists use to prioritize their efforts:

  1. What are the top business imperatives as defined by your CEO and Board of Directors?  Should be no more than 3-10 - max – for most organizations.
  2. What organizational business processes, decisions and stakeholder (e.g., customer, partner, employee) interactions are most important in support of these top imperatives?  What keeps you up at night?  What priority investments in people, process, and technology are you making today that must be optimized with trusted, secure data?
  3. What data and applications are used to support those processes, decisions and interactions?  Filter thousands of “relevant” data items to dozens or hundreds of “critical”.
  4. What upstream people, systems, and processes create, capture, and update that data?  Perform a Create, Read, Update, Delete (CRUD) assessment and analysis of scoped data and processes.  Where are the garbage in/garbage out backdoors that need to be sealed shut?
  5. <What is the business end user’s level of confidence in the security and trustworthiness of that data?  Is it auditable?  Is there lineage? Can it be shared across functions and processes?  Where are the potential gaps?  Do stakeholders spend a significant amount of time manually validating the data?  Interview/survey process owners and data consumers to gain this insight.
  6. Repeat process and reassess priorities ongoing (quarterly or bi-annually at minimum)

I’m working on a business opportunity prioritization model and assessment tool to help weigh your options. I look forward to sharing this in a future post.As always, I look forward to your comments.

First Published: Jan 02, 2014