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MDM, Data Governance • 10 min read

Putting Data Governance into Practice in your Organization

Timothy Peeters | 17-06-2022

Implementing data governance is experienced differently throughout the organization. Especially when you only just get started, the impact of new processes, roles and policies can be overwhelming for some employees. From the daily experiences of our Data & Insights practice, we share seven of our best practices for starting with data governance.

It’s clear that data matters. As a key resource for your organization, data determines your success in the Digital Age. But your employees need more than only a corporate vision, since embracing data through data governance brings on many changes on the work floor. Implementing data governance touches most applications, the organization itself and the different workflows between departments. That introduces the new need for a dedicated data management team that can focus on quality, quantity and efficiency. But putting new roles and policies in place and refining processes is likely to shake up the whole organization. The challenge of data governance is not so much in the data or the technology to master it, but in organizing around a new paradigm. The following seven best practices help you address your organizational challenges.

1. ALIGN DEPARTMENTS TO THE CORPORATE VISION

From the start, communication is crucial in managing your data governance project. Where do you want to go as a company? And why? Do you want to create more online revenue? Optimize performance? Being transparent about your company goals is essential to getting your employees involved and supportive. From there, you need to make the translation towards the different departments. What will more online revenue mean for the Marketing department? How will you enable them to cope with more work? To get your employees’ support, you need to show that you have considered the impact of your overarching plan on their daily lives.

2. EVERYONE HAS TO LEARN ABOUT DATA

The biggest pitfall for implementing data governance is a general misunderstanding about data. Employees need to have a clear grasp of data, the value of quality data and the concept of data governance to get there. An interesting exercise for your data team is to hand out post-it notes and ask your team members to describe the same bottle of water on the table. Someone from HR may remark that a bottle is an inefficient way to fulfill a basic human need on the work floor. The marketer could describe a sparkly mineral water that tastes like nature. And the account manager sees a high-margin and high-volume product. This short exercise helps to bring different views quickly to the fore and start discussions on specific data needs and applications.

3. START SMALL, DREAM BIG

Without management support, data governance won’t be able to get a solid foothold in the organization. On the other hand, management also has to temper its ambitions. Generally, the organization isn’t as advanced or focused as management would like it to be. The organization needs to be prepared and new issues are likely to arise as you make progress. The best approach is to apply the principle of starting small and dreaming big. Don’t try to tackle everything all at once. Start with one data domain: customers, products or suppliers. Go through its life cycle within your organization, from the first event to the last. Look at the current data quality and how it is used and maintained. Research what’s needed to improve the data throughout the organization and focus on realizing a first quick win. This way, you get the organization comfortable with your approach and you can scale from here.

4. CREATE A MULTIDISCIPLINARY DATA TEAM

The success of your data governance implementation depends on the people involved, so take great care in organizing your data team. Ideally, your data team is headed by someone from the business to ensure the company goals are met. Because data touches every business process and every employee, all departments should be involved. Create a healthy mix of people. Young people will bring excitement and change, experienced people will have better knowledge of data and processes. By putting different people together, new energy will bubble and flow and help transform people’s mindsets.

5. FOCUS ON BUSINESS PROCESSES

Data governance is the system that encompasses the practices, processes and accountabilities that manage data assets within an organization. It’s a structured way of working. To connect, manage and share the data, you will also need the technology: a master data management platform. Implementing data governance is typically entwined with an MDM solution implementation project. The danger lies in taking an IT approach that is focused on software processes and that leaves out the people who will work with it. Without considering the business processes and realizing benefits for users, you will have a hard time making it work in practice.

A good approach is to demo the impact on daily tasks. Show how before you needed five minutes to create a new product, and how with the new tooling this will only take one minute. Now, employees will be eager to learn how to use the new MDM system.

6. SHOWCASE YOUR SUCCESS

One key task of your data team is to make data governance come alive with the company. Every win and improvement should be shown to the business to maintain a level of commitment. Focus on the functional advantages for the users to break down any resistance. Remember: happy users make excellent testimonials. A regular newsletter with updates on progress and the impact on the business makes data governance more tangible and keeps the organization involved.

7. DATA CHAMPIONS

An excellent approach to gaining support from within the organization and ensuring a focus on work processes is the usage of data champions. These are employees who work a lot with data, often daily, and who volunteer to support the user community. They come from different departments and layers. From IT, but also from Marketing, Sales, Purchasing, Support and Finance. They represent not only their department but also their department’s business processes. Get your data champions involved from the very start, because that will result in a higher acceptance of data governance throughout the company.

This is the last blog of our article series on Data Governance. Click here to get back to the first article.

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Timothy Peeters

Data Governance Expert

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