Senior Data Governance Architect at Prolifics
January 28, 2022
Several years ago, I was working on establishing a Data Governance program for a national discount retail company. Things were going well – goals and objectives identified, stakeholders engaged, PowerPoint’s finalized, roadmap and project plan drafted, business and IT requirements gathered and documented, tool selection process ongoing. Then came my discovery that discount retailers work on a very slim margin. The department I worked in had 10 ongoing projects; Business Intelligence Reporting, Data Architecture, Master Data Management, and others including the governance project I was leading. Due to sharp cutbacks, a determination was made that only two of the ten projects would continue. The other eight would be cut. In the morning my project was number two – I was a survivor and I felt great! However, something happened during lunch and another project of higher visibility bumped the Governance project from “in” to “out” by that afternoon. I recall sitting in a conference room with the executives who were making the decision over what projects would continue and which ones wouldn’t. Looking around the room I realized that I didn’t know any of these people. So why would they know me or what I was assigned to do?
Do you think that funding was cut because the executives didn’t really understand what Data Governance is? Or what the value of Data Governance to them or the business is? It always surprises me that most Data Governance initiatives start with technology, followed by people, and then processes. This is all great, but perhaps starting with communication will help to ensure that your Data Governance program will survive the rigors of everyday business.
Having a documented plan for most anything is a great idea. I can’t overemphasize the importance of having a plan for communicating Data Governance. Not only because it may help prevent your project, and you, from being cut, but it gives you a list of tasks and dates and perhaps, most importantly, something to look forward to.
What does a Data Governance Communication Plan look like? You should keep it simple. It needs an introductory section that describes the goals and objectives of the DG Comms Plan and a short statement about the value of Data Governance. It also needs a section that identifies specifics about what is being said, who it is being said to, and when it is being said. Here is an example format of the Specific Actions of a Data Governance Communication Plan:
For each Specific Action communication materials will need to be developed. Newsletter articles, posters, PowerPoints are some examples of comm materials. The important thing is to have fun with it. Include a crossword puzzle in the monthly newsletter with the answers in next month’s newsletter. Five across: A type of controlled vocabulary where we find definitions of commonly used business terms – eight letters.
Finally, here are some hints to help kick start your Data Governance Communications:
#1:See if you can find any regularly scheduled department team meetings. They frequently look for guest speakers as they are tired of talking to themselves. And the employee responsible for the next team meeting is simply looking for an available speaker. Request 15 minutes of their time.
#2: The former Metadata Director of the US Federal Geographic Data Committee gave out yellow rubber ducks that had the saying “Don’t Duck Metadata” on them. You can find those ducks perched on file cabinets in hundreds, if not thousands[YB3], of public land management offices in the US. Silly, yes… but also an example of effective messaging.
#3: I once hosted an external Data Governance Practitioners meeting in the company offices. I had a “Welcome Data Governance Practitioners” sign posted at the front door on the day of the meeting. I received so many questions from executives about Data Governance after they saw the sign that I decided to periodically put the sign up even when there was no meeting!
Have fun and good luck!