What is the number one Data Governance mistake?

Nine years ago, I wrote a report detailing what I believe to be some of the biggest mistakes you can make when implementing data governance.

However, over the years I’ve come to realise that I actually missed the biggest mistake you can make off of that report. Many years of experience have taught me that what I once thought was the worst data governance you could make is a little further down the list.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not still important and in fact, it’s quite difficult to choose an absolute number one.

So, before we look at my number one mistake, let’s take a quick look at some of the other big pitfalls and how you can avoid them when implementing your new data governance initiative.

Some of the biggest data governance mistakes 

The Initiative is IT-led 

In my experience, IT-led initiatives are too focused on tools that do things like cleansing data. The problem is that unless a business changes the way that data is captured at the point of entry, the quality of the data will never improve.

One way or another the business needs to recognise the necessity to take ownership of their data and take charge of the data governance initiative. This is often easier said than done and may require an independent expert from outside the organisation to act as a catalyst.

Data governance as a project

This common mistake is easily made because it seems logical to treat the implementation of data governance like any other project. But, 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.

Attempting the big bang approach 

I will own up and raise my hand here. I have tried the big bang approach and I still have the scars to remind me that it is a bad idea! By the big bang approach, I mean attempting one major initiative to implement everything to do with your data governance framework. The result of the big bang approach is that the initiative will most likely be too big to get started in the first place.

Thinking a tool is the answer

If the whole data governance initiative centres around a tool, it is unlikely that the business would ever engage because they would be under the mistaken belief that the tool would do all the work for them.

The answer is to take a structured approach when implementing data governance. Before you start thinking about potential tools, make sure you fully understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.

The number one data governance mistake

Since I wrote that report in 2012, which will be nine years ago, the biggest mistake I have seen is organisations failing to address culture change as part of their data governance initiatives. This mistake is by far the biggest and most common I see and can ultimately lead to the complete failure of a data governance initiative.

I have seen situations where people have actually designed a really great framework that is ideal for their organisation, but it’s been not successful because it’s not implemented properly because they failed to address the culture change side of things.

The result of that is your business users, your stakeholders, they just feel that data governance is being done to them and definitely not for or with them as it should be.  In this scenario, they tend to do as little as possible of what you’re asking them to do, or even nothing at all, if they can possibly get away with it.

Simply, can’t start to manage your data as an asset and realise the value of it if you don’t address that culture change.

How to avoid the number one data governance mistake

The first and most simple thing is to apply some really good change management techniques and if you are not well-versed in them, I’m sure there are people in your organisation who are, but it boils down to lots of very good quality communication with all of your business stakeholders.

This is going to be different communications for the different groups of stakeholders about their role in the data governance implementation and making sure there is good training in place for everybody in your data governance framework who has a role to play like data owners or data stewards.

It’s really important that you bring these people along the journey with you because if you don’t address the culture change your data governance initiative is never going to deliver the benefits you were hoping for.

Originally published on nicolaaskham.com

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