Maturity assessments: The key to success with data governance

Enterprise information management expert Kelle O'Neal shares three best practices to consider when conducting a data governance maturity assessment.

“A maturity assessment can help you identify why data governance is important. You can measure the value of your data by its impact on your organization and brand, customer loyalty, value to shareholders, and so on.”

—Kelle O’Neal, managing partner and founder of First San Francisco Partners

Kelle O’Neal, managing partner and founder of business and IT consulting firm First San Francisco Partners, helps organizations comprehend the importance of enterprise information management and emerging big data strategies. She sat down with Potential at Work to discuss data governance maturity assessments. She explains the advantages of free self-assessment tools and the signs it’s time to call in a pro. And, most importantly, she explains how to turn assessment into action.

Why should organizations conduct data governance maturity assessments?

O’Neal: A maturity assessment can help you identify why data governance is important. You can measure the value of your data by its impact on your organization and brand, customer loyalty, value to shareholders, and so on. You can directly tie the maturity around governing your data to its value. If you increase that maturity, you increase the value of your data, which increases the value of your brand as an example.

What are best practices for conducting a maturity assessment?


  1. You should assess people, process, and technology, not just the use of or adoption of technology.
  2. Assess the impact, not just the content, of a program. The content itself is not relevant when it comes to moving up the maturity scale.
  3. Embody the criteria of each assessment category which is in essence, the criteria for becoming more mature as an organization. You need to be able to use that maturity assessment to create action.

What are the differences between self-assessment tools and consultative services?

O’Neal: A self-assessment tool is a great place to start. The fewer the people who complete the assessment, however, the higher the potential bias. A good third-party consultative assessment asks questions to try to remove bias and tends to be more cross-functional. Also, most third-party solutions take industry into consideration, whereas not all self-assessment tools do. Consider hiring a third-party consultant to help elevate the quality of insights from your self-assessment and validate the results.

How can information leaders put this knowledge into action in their own organizations?

O’Neal: Look at a spectrum of employees in terms of rank and function within the company. Recruit a number of people to complete the same self-assessment so you can compare results. You want a cross-functional viewpoint and a hierarchical viewpoint. Include, for instance, finance, sales, marketing, and product management, as well as junior, senior, and executive levels.

Ask yourself why you’re doing the assessment. It can help identity bias and help objectively articulate the purpose and the output of the assessment. The more that it is perceived as having bias, the less valuable it is.

You know you have derived the most value from data governance when it’s invisible to the rest of the organization. This is the goal because it signals that it’s become a core competency.

Is your organization ready to embark on a data governance self-assessment? Check out the free online tool at GovernYourData.com, which lets you take multiple maturity assessments. You then receive benchmark reporting comparing your scores with organizations of similar size in your industry and region.

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