Reflections on a Year of Empowerment—Creating Value from Trusted Data at McGraw - Hill Education

Last Published: Jun 29, 2022 |
Thomas Brence
Thomas Brence

Senior Director, Product Marketing: Data Quality and Governance

In January of this year, I introduced a new webinar series featuring data governance leaders who are empowering their organizations with trusted data. As part of that series, I’ve had the privilege to sit down each and every month with a collection of experts to highlight their journey, showcase their success, and share their insights on how to get the most out of data. Each is an excellent example of empowerment, and we’ve built an entire page that features every episode from the last twelve months. There are stories from organizations like State Farm, Eli Lilly, UNC Health, Invesco, and many more. As we round out the year, I found it impossible to resist ending the first season of our Data Empowerments Experts series where it all began. 

For McGraw-Hill Education, actively reaching out to stakeholders and holding one-on-one conversations to get their feedback in how you approach data governance has proven invaluable to building a strong program and staying on track with goals. | Informatica

You see, at Informatica World 2017, we broadly launched Axon Data Governance as the cornerstone to our Intelligent Data Governance solution. During the launch breakout session, we featured one of our earliest customers, who was the first to speak about it at an Informatica World global summit. That expert was Roberta Pape, Director of Data Governance at McGraw-Hill Education. At the event, Roberta shared her data governance journey to date and highlighted how Axon Data Governance helped to operationalize her program at McGraw-Hill.  

So, to end our first year of the Data Empowerment Experts, I could think of no one that I’d rather feature than Roberta. During her webinar later this month, she’ll share the continuation of their journey, highlight how essential trusted data has been to gaining a deeper understanding of their data landscape, and detail how critical governance has been to empowering users throughout their organization to make more informed, data-driven decisions. As I’ve done with each of our experts, we sat down for a preview Q&A before the webinar:  

Question: How do you choose where to start? 

Answer: When I first kicked off data governance at McGraw-Hill, the focus areas were product master data and anything that materially impacted business intelligence (BI) reporting used by our senior leadership. Product master is a foundation for our order transactions and key BI reports used by senior leadership, so it was natural fit to focus on it for our governance efforts. To be able to manage these first initiatives, I first worked on operationalizing data governance. That included crafting a data governance lifecycle phases, which has been defined as Impact Discovery to Implementation to Monitor. The crucial phase for data governance is Impact Discovery, which includes defining glossary terms, policies, DATA QUALITY business rules, processes, data lineage, etc., with strong business user involvement. Axon is the main tool used for Impact Discovery. 

Question: How do you maintain momentum?  

Answer: Over the past few years I’ve occasionally run into lulls where we didn’t progress as quickly as I’d hope. When that happens, a key to getting back on track is socialize the positive business impacts and ensure that you have the right stakeholders involved. I found it’s to your benefit to join forces with internal auditing or other groups that have oversight authority. Actively reaching out to stakeholders and holding one-on-one conversations to get their feedback in how you approach data governance has proven invaluable to building a strong program and staying on track with goals. With the amount of data in a company of our size, it can be easy (and tempting) to branch out to other data domains, since most data domains interact with other data domains. It takes discipline to stay focused, but I’ve only experienced significant strides in data governance when there’s been limited and specific data focus. 

Question: How do you address scale?  

Answer: Scaling what I do for data governance is always on my mind. While you can put something in place that works very well for a single initiative, if it can’t grow and scale beyond that, then you’ve missed an important opportunity to build upon what you’ve accomplished. Laser focus on only product master and specific BI reporting issues allowed us to build a solid foundation from which to scale. Also, using a tool like Axon to store our data landscape inventory allows us to apply a data governance inventory x-factor to our initiatives. Meaning, once an initiative has been worked upon and the legwork has been performed to document its data landscape in Axon, that inventory is there waiting to be reused and built upon for the next initiative. As more initiatives are worked, the larger the inventory becomes for reuse which equates to less legwork and time needing to be spent on inventory documentation. This allows us to scale data governance to larger and more complex initiatives with less inventory effort. 

Question: How do you measure success?  

Answer: For data quality, I designed the data quality metrics so that data quality dashboards are able to report upon granular level of detail at the attribute level with the ability to roll-up to senior leadership overviews. This includes trend reporting over time. The trend reporting has proved to be a good indicator of success since it tells a story of whether the data quality is improving or not. For data governance in general, it’s a much more difficult to put hard numbers since its nirvana end-state is proper usage of data and data quality to drive high-quality value-added business activities, whether that’s with a customer placing an order or our CFO using BI reports to make critical business decisions. A quote from Scott Taylor on LinkedIn of “good decisions made off of bad data are just bad decisions you don’t know about yet” really resonated with me about the hidden and long-term costs of not having a successful data governance program. 

Question: How has data privacy been a factor?  

Answer: We had an initiative specifically to identify where our privacy data is kept. That inventory was loaded into Axon and now privacy data is called out in dashboard reporting as part of Impact Discovery. This provides privacy indicators to those performing an Impact Discovery so that they’re able to treat the data appropriately according to our internal privacy policy and external regulations like GDPR. 

Question: How do you empower the business to drive value?  

Answer: The business has a strong voice and empowerment in Impact Discovery that then drives implementation and monitoring. A major initiative that is well under way is transitioning to a BI Report Center of Excellence. The BI Report COE is grounded in data governance to provide certified data that can be trusted to provide data confidence and business value. As part of Impact Discovery, formally documenting data definitions, where data is coming from, data transformations, data quality business rules, identify stakeholder ownership, etc., in Axon and then applying those data quality business rules and data profiling using Informatica Data Quality to Monitor the data are core activities for data certification. The same Impact Discovery approach is applied to any data governance initiative. It’s currently used by the technical support team of product master data as they work through system change requests which gives the business a stronger voice up-front to drive data decisions before system changes are designed and implemented. 

I’m looking forward to this final episode in what has become our first season of the Data Empowerment Experts series. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and tune in before unplugging for the holiday season. For 2021, we’ll launch season two with a brand-new episode during the last week of January. Stay tuned and stay up-to-date with all things data empowerment at  

First Published: Dec 09, 2020