If you ask anyone who has been involved with a Data Governance (DG) initiative, they will tell you that the hardest part is not the technology, but the cultural change required to support it. Technology eases the path, but any tool is only as good as what is put into it and only as current as the updates made to it.
Imagine the first time that a user logs in to a data governance tool, they see a beautiful user interface and an intuitive user experience, and they begin to explore. Are they likely to stay long when they see a process that is months out of date? Or observe that a system which has been decommissioned is still listed as active? What will they think if they see that a policy refers to the 1995 Data Protection Directive, rather than GDPR? Although the tool in itself could be perfect, if the content is not up to par, an end user will quickly discount it as a source of reliable information. So how do we keep content dynamic? Technology and adoption!
With improvements in technology, it may seem sometimes that almost everything can be automated. In which case why do we need adoption at all to keep our metadata up to date? Within any organization there exists many different types of knowledge, in many different types of forms. At a minimum, there will always be:
While you can and should use technology to extract as much as you can in relation to 1 and 2, the elusive piece of the puzzle comes from 3. If we truly want to understand how data is used within an organization, it is paramount that we engage with the people who are using that data in their day to day jobs. No tool can extract all of this information automatically, so the top priority of any DG initiative should be to engage with stakeholders and drive adoption above all else.
The fact of the matter is, no organization has enough data stewards employed to keep all the important metadata related to the organization dynamic, particularly with the amount of metadata and the level of flux we are dealing with in modern companies. If we leave the work to data stewards, they will always be one step behind, chasing the actual data/process owners for updates. Therefore, the only feasible long-term solution is to embed 5% of governance activities into 95% of peoples’ jobs - disseminating responsibility to those who actually know their particular process/system/business term/policy inside out!
People are set in their ways. If you want them to try something new, you are going to have to give them something in return. Furthermore, Data Governance is not always the most popular initiative within an organization. In fact, many organizations have felt the need to rebrand the concept due to the associations it dredges up. Whether you are calling it ‘Data Management; ‘Data Enablement’ or even ‘Collaborative Enterprise Understanding’ the ultimate goal should be to tackle the associations themselves.
All in all, enterprise data governance is no mean feat. There is a reason that many initiatives run out of steam, lose funding and ultimately fall by the wayside. But there is also a reason they are picked up again, dusted off and reattempted. Data Governance is not going away (even if renamed!) so it's time we started thinking about approaching it differently, with adoption as our number one priority—only by making it a small part of everyone’s job can data governance become sustainable.
Ready to drive Data Governance adoption in your organization? You can learn more about driving culture change in this webinar from the Data Empowerment Experts series, “Keeping Up with the Chaos: The Evolution of Data Governance at FIS.”