The Six Principles for Successful Data Governance

The Six Principles for Successful Data Governance

There are six principles that underpin all successful data governance initiatives. These are principles that I have developed over many years of experience of successfully (and sometimes not so successfully in the early days) implementing data governances in dozens of organisations.

 These are principles that I believe underpin all successful frameworks and, if followed, will lead to your organisation to successful data governance. They are:

  • Opportunities: Identify the benefits of data governance for your organisation.

  • Capability: Set yourself up for success by ensuring that you have the right resources and knowledge.

  • Custom-build: Design a Data Governance Framework which is tailormade to your organisation.

  • Simplicity: Avoid complexity and make it easy to embed Data Governance.

  • Launch: Implement on an iterative basis and start to see the benefits of your work.

  • Evolve: Develop your framework as your organisation evolves to make further gains.

Let’s look at each of the principles in a little more detail:


Why is your organisation doing Data Governance? What’s the value proposition?

You need to be clear what benefits you hope to deliver and why that is important for your company. In my experience, starting Data Governance for best practice purposes are doomed to failure.

You need to truly understand why your organisation is implementing data governance. If you don’t know ‘why’, it can be easy to get side-tracked and distracted. The ‘why’ is what will guide you in your journey and ensure your organisation is getting what it needs from your data governance initiative.

People will often spout generic benefits like ‘oh there will be efficiencies’ or ‘there will be better opportunities if we do data governance’, but they can’t explain why when challenged and the consequence of this is that when you’re meeting your stakeholders at the start of a data governance initiative – particularly your senior ones –  they want to be able to know ‘what’s in it for me’ and if you can’t answer that in a way that they really are interested in and benefits them, they’re just not going to be interested.


So many people (me included – but that’s a story for another day!) find themselves doing Data Governance by accident and, usually without any previous experience or knowledge of what exactly you should be doing.

Coupled with the fact there is so many confusing, conflicting (and some downright wrong) things on the internet it is easy to get confused or alternatively get stuck in analysis paralysis as you read just one more article before designing your Data Governance framework.

That is why I try to offer bite sized simple pieces of advice with my videos and blogs and why I started offering training to give people the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.


For it to be successful, your Data Governance Framework must be designed for your organisation – there is no standard framework that will work for you or anyone else.

A data governance framework is a set of data rules, organisational role delegations and processes aimed at bringing everyone in your organisation onto the same page when implementing Data Governance.

The only way to be successful with Data Governance is to first work out why your organisation needs Data Governance, and then to design and implement a framework that meets those needs.

I can (almost) guarantee that any standard framework is not going to meet your needs. It’ll very likely be too complex, too convoluted, and too focused on things that really aren’t appropriate for your organisation.


I’ve never yet seen an overly complex framework/approach to Data Governance that has worked. Don’t try to allow for every possible eventuality – you will tie yourself and your business users up in knots and create something that is too complicated to implement, and everyone will resist adopting it.

I have found (the hard way) that simplicity is best – remember you can always add detail as your Data Governance approach matures and you find a need for an extra level of detail but start simple and grow from there.


Launch is linked to simplicity. Over the years I have seen many organisations fail in their Data Governance initiative because they try to do everything at once, however it is really is too much to do all at one time.

I often call this the ‘big bang approach’. It is likely that it will be too big and scary to your senior stakeholders to try and do that all at once and that you won’t get approval but, if you do, it is unlikely to be successful as it is too big a change all at once for the business users to take on board.

It is far better to take an iterative phased approach and slowly but surely roll your Data Governance Framework out across your organisation.


Do not make the mistake of thinking that designing and implementing a Data Governance Framework is a ‘once and done’ activity – Data Governance is not a project!

You need to constantly review and evolve your framework as your organisation evolves – perhaps it will restructure, and you must agree a new approach to Data Ownership or perhaps you enter new markets or merge with another organisations.

All these things will impact your initiative’s ability to remain relevant and provide the appropriate support to your organisation which is why your framework needs to evolve too.

When a data governance initiative is led as a project, it appears that progress is being made as tasks get completed. However, nothing substantial will change until the people change.

To change behaviours, attitudes, and culture, you must win hearts and minds. This is almost always overlooked when the success of the initiative is measured by deliverables ticked off a checklist.

Follow these principles to ensure that you design and deliver a Data Governance Framework successfully.

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