Data Governance Buy-In: A Balanced Approach

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Data Governance Buy-In: A Balanced Approach

Most data governance professionals agree that executive sponsorship is crucial for growing a successful data governance program. With leadership support, the program gains visibility, authority, and necessary resources. However, even without formal executive buy-in initially, data governance initiatives can still make headway and demonstrate value.

An effective data governance strategy balances getting backing from executives to provide top-down leadership, middle managers to bridge to the working levels, and data citizens to build a grassroots foundation of understanding and compliance. Beginning by showing value in a specific high-impact domain can help create proof points and build momentum for wider adoption over time.

Getting Executive Buy-In

While executive support is ideal, data governance programs can still progress without it – at least initially. Also, many data governance teams don’t have the luxury of an official executive sponsor. A convinced middle manager or passionate data steward can start making improvements within their sphere of influence. By using an agile approach to tackle high-priority governance issues, they can deliver quick wins that demonstrate the value of data governance. Success stories like improving a critical report’s data quality or streamlining a core business process through better data management can help convince executives to officially support the program.

Engaging Middle Managers

Middle managers are pivotal for connecting data governance activities to business operations and goals. They understand the strategic priorities, key metrics, and performance pain points within their domains. Aligning data governance aims like increasing data quality, consistency and accessibility to these business needs can secure their buy-in. Additionally, since they oversee the employees closest to the data, middle managers can identify and enable the most fitting data stewards.

Empowering Data Citizens

The people interfacing with data each day are essentially the execution workforce for data governance policies. Their buy-in is critical for ensuring governance processes get adopted and embedded within workflows across the organization. By providing role-based data literacy training, data governance teams can help employees understand how sound data management enables better business outcomes. Framing governance not just as compliance overhead, but as a way to improve the accuracy, consistency, and accessibility of the data and reports they rely on helps gain their support.


Balancing the Approach 

While pursuing executive sponsorship is still advisable long-term, a balanced strategy of involving stakeholders across all levels can jumpstart data governance progress. Quick wins with a high-value domain can convince reluctant executives. Middle managers can supply operations insights and staff access. And bottom-up engagement of data consumers gets processes embedded. An outside-in approach starting with the highest impact areas and working towards a cohesive, enterprise-wide program keeps initiatives pragmatic and sustainable. Every organization is different, and the “buy-in” process will vary depending on the organizational culture, existing data management maturity, and specific business challenges and priorities.