I was talking with a potential client the other day about their master data management program and how they’ve structured their data governance initiative. This company really seems to have gotten it right. They’ve put together a data governance framework that makes sense, and they’ve made some good technology choices along the way as well.
But the analogy that came to mind was that of the United States in its early days, after the Constitution was framed up but before any of the representatives had been elected.
The data governance framework (the Constitution) has been put together, but the people haven’t been hired yet. And in data governance, as in most other areas of business, it’s the people who make it really happen. A great business process is just a piece of paper or a drawing on a white board without the right person to make it happen.
What do you look for in an employee filling a data governance role? Depending on how senior the position, I’d look for a certain amount of political savvy, a drive to get things done, an ability to focus and be detail oriented, a combination of business and technical experience, and of course, the usual “strong written and verbal communication skills”.
Seriously, the more senior data governance people are taking on a pretty tough task. While I don’t believe that “data governance is career suicide“, I do believe that you’re asking a lot of someone:
- come into a new company (or change roles within their current company)
- start up a new organization with the company that has a somewhat vague mission (“data governance? what’s that?”)
- take on the task of forming the data governance group while overcoming the skeptics of its mission
- hiring people to round out the data governance group, lest you risk becoming a “team of one”
- sometimes, the new data governance leader is coming into a crisis situation and has to hit the ground running
So one way to support a new data governance program leader is to bring in a SWAT team around them temporarily, to support them while they build out their permanent team, and to have that SWAT team help with the definition of the job roles and responsibilities, explaining the mission to the rest of the organization, creating the communication strategy, and all of the other tasks associated with getting data governance up and running.
That’s a lot kinder than just handing a newly hired data governance leader a blank sheet of paper and saying “good luck!”
And until you’ve got the bodies in the seats, data governance probably isn’t fully real at your organization yet.