Data Governance Interview with Neil Rutland

Data Governance Interview with Neil Rutland

Neil is the Data Governance Lead at CLS. I have been helping CLS with their Data Governance periodically for a while now and always enjoy working with Neil. He has a long history of working in data-related disciplines, making the move into data governance at the end of 2019. Before this he worked in data analytics, application support and helpdesk roles which have given him many different viewpoints on data as it travels through an enterprise.

How long have you been working in Data Governance?

I started working in Data Governance in October 2019 when I transitioned from a role in Data Analytics. At the time I had little experience of Data Governance and it was a steep learning curve to get up to speed with both the work that had already been done on the initiative and the basic principles of data governance. It has been an enjoyable process to align the things I am learning with the existing work and see how I can take it forward with new concepts.

Some people view Data Governance as an unusual career choice, would you mind sharing how you got into this area of work?

Perhaps a little by accident, but a happy accident! I have a varied background in data with previous roles including application support, warehouse development (ETL) , business analysis, data analytics and business intelligence development. This has given me the opportunity to see data at many points in its life cycle and I have developed a good overview of the potential pain/failure points.

It was a natural move for me when I became aware of the Data Governance initiative because it combines many areas of interest from data storytelling to the more fundamental ‘foundational elements’ like the data glossary and development of data quality rules.

What characteristics do you have that make you successful at Data Governance and why?

I like this question because I think there are many attributes that contribute to ‘success’ when it comes to Data Governance

I’m still relatively new to the area so I’d prefer to say what characteristics I have that make me ‘suitable’ for a Data Governance role… success at this stage is a very difficult thing to measure!

I think pragmatism is a key trait. It is OK to aim for the stars, but it is better to get there in small steps than get lost in planning for one big leap.

I also think calmness is important. There are many times when you will be challenged when trying to implement Data Governance and you need to be able to take a step back and rationalize these challenges. The challenges I have faced have provided the best learning opportunities and helped me understand what I can do better, both technically and in dealing with stakeholders.

Are there any particular books or resources that you would recommend as useful support for those starting out in Data Governance?

I’d certainly recommend the DAMA DMBoK to anyone with a serious interest in a pure Data Governance role. There is a lot to absorb but it gives a useful framework for organizing your thoughts. This is critical when you are new to a subject and may need that extra bit of support to believe in your own opinions.

I also come from a background in analysis and visualization so I am keen to read Data Storytelling for Data Management by Scott Taylor. I think this is an area that can really be exploited to ‘sell’ the good work that data governance does.

What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced in a Data Governance implementation?

To date, I have only been involved in one implementation and the biggest challenge was taking over an initiative that saw a significant knowledge drain.

I was required to learn about data governance, how it had been applied to the project and also keep the project moving. Whilst it was challenging, the focus it gave certainly helped me learn quickly.

Is there a company or industry you would particularly like to help implement Data Governance for and why?

I think I am in the right place at the moment. The data is plentiful, complex and has many uses around the organization and market?. It is an ideal starting point as I am learning how to structure my work and interact with people to get the best results.

What single piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in Data Governance?

Deliver something tangible.

Data Governance is such a broad, and at times abstract, subject it can be difficult to get people to understand the collective journey you are on. I have found that most stakeholders, even sceptics, respond well to tangible deliverables and this can really help drive an initiative forward.

There’s always ‘one more thing’ that you can do with Data Governance. Don’t let your enthusiasm to fix everything stop you from making progress towards fixing something. This is something I am occasionally guilty of and am working to correct

Finally, I wondered if you could share a memorable data governance experience (either humorous or challenging)?

My whole Data Governance experience has been memorable. As a result of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, the world went into lockdown 3 weeks after we had started working with our Data Stewards. Transitioning to a remote working environment whilst trying to lay the groundwork for data governance has been challenging but full of opportunities to learn and adapt. 

I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey!

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