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Data Governance

Clarkston just hosted its most recent Executive Exchange dinner in Chicago, where IT and business leaders from some of the most well-known life sciences and consumer products companies engaged in discussion around data governance. The group discussed the struggles with data management and the best practices for establishing data governance processes.

The discussion further enforced that there is no cookie-cutter solution to Data Governance – it does and should mean something different to each organization and person. The data governance challenge must be embraced, sponsorship defined, culture refined and a group established and empowered to decide what is best for the organization. A few key points from the discussion are summarized below:

Executive Sponsorship

It is imperative to have an executive-level sponsor who is passionate, articulate and vocal on his/her commitment to data governance. There are a number of ways to gain executive buy-in:

  • Find metrics that executives care about and demonstrate all of the paper-clipping that goes into calculating them
  • Create new metrics that test the master data (e.g., no-touch transactions)
  • Find ways to relate master data to corporate strategy. For example, if an organization’s corporate strategy is focused on mergers & acquisitions, then position data governance as a critical component of M&A decision-making and integration.

Business Ownership & Engagement

Creating a culture that understands the importance of data is a critical success factor of data governance. Organizations need to create an environment where people are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that data is captured, maintained, and consumed correctly. That said, creating or changing culture is very challenging.

Executive sponsorship is the first, critical step for organizations to create a data focused culture. Additionally, organizations need a Data Governance strategy that focuses on quick wins to gain data advocates throughout the organization. All new projects need Data Governance baked into the design and plan, ensuring tasks, time and resources are identified for data profiling & cleansing. Data governance champions need to help business users understand that upfront efforts will allow for more efficient data evaluation. That said, data champions must emphasize that data governance is a journey, and each of these steps take the organization one step closer to a single set of trusted, accurate data.

Data Governance Group/Council

Centralized data governance groups are a best practice among organizations that recognize the importance of data governance. Often, organizations create this organizational structure, but the members act more as data clerks than as data stewards. More mature organizations realize that empowering this group to make decisions on data-related investments is where the value of this investment is realized. Thus, these resources often support both IT and the business and are well-versed in the organization’s data governance tool so that they have the visibility to make local and global data decisions.

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