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How to get started with Data Governance

Dr Victoria Holt

Before we start to look at how to get started with Data Governance, let me define what data governance means to me.   

Data governance is the place to begin your data journey.  It is about knowing what data you have, who owns the data, where it comes from, the quality of the data, as well as the security of your data.  It’s not just about following GDPR, it’s about having a holistic view of the full data spectrum.  Additionally, knowing what data you have, so you don’t end up with data siloes is most important. When you start looking at analytics, if it is based on the wrong data which is not governed well, then a business may make suboptimal decisions. 

When I speak to a new client, I like to suggest a data maturity assessment as the initial step. This provides a good picture of where the client is on their data journey. This assessment is not just a one-time assessment, it would be used through the lifecycle of the project, and beyond, to benchmark and monitor the improvement of the client's data.  Not only that, it shows where the gaps are and therefore the focus areas for any data projects. 

The next element to address when commencing a successful project is to identify who are the key stakeholders.  Most importantly, you must have senior management buy in.  The reason you hear about failed data programmes is because they did not have this key stakeholder involvement.  So right at the beginning you need to know who that data owner is and who is going to be making those key decisions.  Once you start looking at the data you have it is important to map owners to all the data assets, then if there is a problem that arises with that data you have someone to go to who is responsible to make those improvements.   

Next, when identifying this key stakeholder, you really need to consider the cost of doing nothing in the business.  What would that impact be on your business?  How detrimental would it be if you did nothing?  This is essential when persuading the business to undertake a data governance project and why it matters. Data governance works well as an agile delivery. Starting small is important with the highest business value data. It is important to start on this process and communicate this success within the business to help drive the ongoing program. 

Thirdly, I think it is also great to have a dashboard when commencing these projects so you can see the progress that is being made and what the benefit is to continue the project.  This makes it a tangible project to the business. To also have someone to oversee the project from a visibility perspective, to be responsible for KPI’s, so you can see what data is available to the business and how the project is progressing is key.   

Finally, the kind of characteristics that I see in a business that manages successful data projects are a business that thinks about the value of data, has a data strategy mapped to the business strategy, knows what data it has, that starts with the highest value data feeds, has a data onboarding strategy, has working groups to manage the lifecycle of data, has a dashboard to see the data assets state and project progress, and are consistent with how they manage the data across the business.  

I hope you have found this initial look at how to get started with Data Governance useful.  We have a podcast entitled What is data governance: the benefits and how to get started and information on our data services here. Please reach out to Coeo if you require any more information and need assistance with your data projects. 

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