Since my last blog post, I have spent a significant amount of time discussing the key considerations associated with starting a data governance initiative within an organization.  Although organizational readiness for governance varies by company, there are some common points that are often discussed and should be considered when beginning a governance initiative.  This list isn’t meant to be all encompassing, rather, these are some of the key elements that are needed in order to jumpstart a governance initiative and provide a foundation for a successful endeavor.

  1. Executive Sponsorship – the success of data governance within an organization often sinks or swims based on executive sponsorship of the initiative.  Senior level sponsorship will ensure data governance remains a priority regardless of other activities taking place.  The need for executive sponsorship is often understood, however, the key message should be that the sponsor should remain engaged with the data governance council.  The reason for this continued interaction with the sponsor is that sustaining a data governance initiative is often more difficult that starting it.  Data Governance should not be seen as a project with a start and end date, rather, it should be seen as a fundamental change to the organization that will be ongoing and evolving.
  2. Understand where you are starting from – before you can determine where you would like to go with a data governance initiative, you need to understand where you are starting from.  What is the quality of the data within your organization?  How well documented are your current business and technical processes?  Where does your organization stand from the likelihood of adapting a governance initiative?  All of these are important questions that should be answered as they will serve as the baseline of the governance initiative.  By doing an upfront assessment, you can capture the answer to these and other key questions and should incorporate them into your initial governance plan.
  3. Don’t Boil the Ocean – the point of this item on the checklist is to make sure the data governance initiative has a realistic and achievable starting point.  Although data governance should be adopted throughout the entire organization, starting with one data domain, a department within the organization, etc. will allow you to pilot the processes, organizational changes and/or technologies that have been selected as a part of the data governance initiative.  By starting on a smaller scale, you can build momentum and develop a success story that can be used to promote the data governance council and initiative throughout other parts of the organization (and may help with convincing some of those opposed to the initiative within the company).  The key mantra should be to think big, but start small.
  4. 30/60/90 day plan – although data governance may seem like a daunting task, developing a 30/60/90 day plan will help with ensuring the initiative is progressing as expected.  Through specific milestones, checkpoints and open discussions regarding what is/isn’t working, you will be positioned to ensure the long term viability and sustainability of the governance program within the organization.
  5. Build a cross functional team – this point on the checklist is not meant to propose a cross-functional model for deploying governance, rather, the purpose is to ensure that you are gaining insights from all stakeholders across the organization (from business and IT).  Since the governance initiative will be a fundamental shift within the organization, you need to ensure that all of the key stakeholders are engaged, informed and are disseminating information as needed to their teams.

Although I have highlighted five key areas to ensure success when starting a data governance initiative, I would be interested in hearing what others think are the key attributes for building and sustaining data governance within an organization.  What has worked for you?  What hasn’t?