The Business Value of Data Governance: Describing “What’s in It for Me?”

Last Published: Sep 08, 2021 |
Susan Wilson
Susan Wilson

GVP North America Solutions Leader 

“What’s in it for me?” As a CDO, that’s the key question you need to answer when building out your data governance strategy. In my work with customers, everyone from C-level executives to data practitioners describes a new charter within data governance. While controlling risk and overseeing compliance are still priorities, CDOs are now also tasked with driving business value by providing quick and easy access to high-quality data and accelerating decision-making. In order to get buy-in to your strategy, you need to communicate its value in a way that resonates with people in a variety of roles across the organization.

How Do I Find What I Need?

the business value of data governance

A one-size-fits-all approach to answering, “What’s in it for me?” (aka WIIFM) won’t work. Instead, the needs of your audience should shape your response. For example, there are segments at the working edge of the organization that might not have a data scientist group but that still need to use data to find new insights, new products, new services, and new markets. These folks are what we call “citizen” consumers of data, who understand business processes but who may not have many technical skills, know how to get access to data, or know where that data might reside.

Right now, these people may have to go through archaic channels, such as submitting a project ticket for data, calling their buddy in Finance, and then submitting a report request, only to find out that they’ve asked for the wrong report. The WIIFM for them is the ability to easily find what they need, which in turn can help them work more productively.

Citizen consumers need to see a data product on a shelf with proper labelling and subject matter expert contact information and easy fulfillment mechanisms, so that when they “shop” for the data and check it out, they can also see how it’s going to be fulfilled and tracked. In short, they’re looking for a data marketplace.

Can I Trust That Data Is Fit for Use?

For other individuals, their WIIFM explains how a data marketplace helps people across the organization become more aware of the business functions around them. By having the ability to access data lineage maps in the marketplace, they can have confidence that data is fit for use and get answers to questions like:

  • Where did this data come from?
  • Who does it feed downstream?
  • Is it going to someone in the commercial space or someone in manufacturing?

By making it easier for people to understand the data, gain access to it, and begin to map the connections that they have to other parts of the organization, individuals can increase their effectiveness.

For example, in my previous role at a large pharmaceutical firm, one of our biggest challenges was the cost of making a drug. We had to look at that cost as it traveled across multiple phases—discovery and development, preclinical, clinical research, clinical trials, and commercial. It was hard to calculate the financial impact across that lifecycle, because often the drug’s codes changed as it moved through our lines of business.

The ability to have a common identifier and to understand how that data is treated throughout the entire lifecycle is critical to that process. Having a data marketplace is a very powerful way to understand which line of business and process the data collection that you’re looking to consume came from. 

Accelerating Time to Value

So how do you stock the shelves of your data marketplace? First and foremost, you should anchor it to your organization’s business objectives, to the stakeholders’ WIIFM. Take the case of one customer, a large, well-established insurance firm. They found themselves challenged by new startups that had recently sprung up. They realized that in order to stay competitive, they needed to shift their focus from product-centric to customer-centric. They also needed to counteract a low retention rate among their agents by improving their agent recruitment. Each of these factors caused a fundamental change in the way they looked at data.

To create a strategy to implement these new business priorities, you first need to do research by conducting a listening campaign. Knowing your organization’s business goals, you should ask questions like:

  • What are some of the challenges that we face?
  • How will we be able to meet these business goals?
  • What are the risks if we don’t do anything?

As you gather responses, you can start to build out the WIIFM for finance, for commercial, for marketing teams, etc. You can also develop a map to the lines of business that either own or are directly responsible for a particular transformation or business goal. Based on that knowledge, you can then stock your data marketplace, accelerating time to value by providing easy access to relevant data that enables individuals to make informed decisions.

Communicating the WIIFM: Keep It Simple

Once you’ve devised your strategy, how should you communicate it? The best approach is to keep it simple. Words and phrases like “metadata,” “data steward,” and even “data quality” can be seen as squishy. Everyday terms will get your message across best.

As the CDO of a European financial firm put it, “Basically, we’re building the supermarket for data. You as a citizen consumer from finance can pull products off the shelf and staff will be available to answer questions for you. But we’re going to put as much investment as possible in that label and in that product, so that anytime you pull it off the shelf, you can consume it with confidence.” The WIIFM he created spoke to a range of audiences, whether they were part of managing the store or were consumers going into the store.

The communication strategy is absolutely key for the WIIFM. Don’t use terminology that’s hard to understand or that isn’t commonplace. And use analogies like a supermarket that your audience can easily identify with.

Next Steps

To learn more about how organizations are succeeding with data governance, check out our on-demand Data Empowerment Experts Webinar Series.

First Published: Nov 04, 2020