I recently had conversations with several data governance leaders who expressed concerns related to the scope of work involved in launching a data governance program. There are plenty of books and white papers promoting examples of robust programs with huge teams. And plenty of technology vendors, anxious to impress, tout the robust features available to solve the most complex use cases. All of this lead many to the conclusion that data governance is a competency and a massive investment best left to the largest and most complex organizations. The current approach using spreadsheets and emails isn’t so bad for the rest of us, right?
I understand these concerns are often triggered when technology vendors demonstrate the broad scope of capabilities they can enable to support data governance. However, I would recommend a different perspective when you’re considering technology enablers for data governance: what you’re seeing is the art of the possible, not the journey. Any technology solutions should represent a foundation that can grow with your program as you progress on your data governance journey, and you should challenge any vendor (us included!) to demonstrate how they provide capabilities that will help you streamline your efforts at every step along the way.
I find that many of our most successful customers start leveraging data governance technologies in a focused way that helps them achieve short-term business objectives, while preparing the foundation for a broader enterprise focus in the future.
The two most common approaches to getting started with data governance take either a horizontal focus or a vertical focus. A horizonal focus is broad and tends to address a specific kind of information (e.g., business glossary, reference data, customer master) across the organization. Alternatively, a vertical focus tends to aim at a business use case and all of the information that pertains to it. To elaborate further:
Both vertical and horizontal focuses tend to run in sprints or waves. Over time, as the program evolves and your needs change, you may have a combination of project types going at any time.
It is important to select enabling technologies that are simple and can be used out of the box to start working to address your immediate needs. Then, as your program—and the value you are delivering—gain momentum within your organization, you can expand as you need while the lessons and skills that you learn working with one type of content are easily transferred to any other type you choose to start using. As you start adding use cases and content, the fabric of the solution should build a detailed picture of your organization’s operations: how things should work, what it all means, how actual operations compare to the ideal, and more.
Here is the advice I share with all of my clients: As the Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Data governance is such a journey and should not be over analyzed. Start with mindful steps toward your goal. Make sure that the steps are meaningful to the organization and that they deliver immediate value, but also pull it forward in the right direction. Finally, don’t bite off too much at one time. Put parameters around your goals so that you have measurable results that demonstrate the value of the program.
At Informatica, we call this approach “Just Enough Data Governance.” I have seen it applied successfully time and time again.