Data Governance - Make it a Team Sport
Updated: May 30
A lot of people will probably stop reading now as those two words individually can be seen as boring but together they can induce a coma.
But before you go, what if I was to tell you that this is the key to driving additional revenue for your business and ensuring that you get the returns on any technology investment you make.
Maybe you would stay longer?
Data has been coined the new oil, BUT like oil, it's no use in its raw format, it is the engine that processes it that creates the power.
Knowledge is power and data is fuel which needs to be processed in a consistent way.
Technology is often thought of as the engine for processing BUT ensuring that it’s done
in a ‘consistent way’ is critical here because otherwise, you can get different results and no one trusts the data.
And that’s why you need Data Governance, which in simple terms means “agreeing on the rules by which you process the data”.
Technology won't magically make this happen and it is unlikely that your technical teams will know the best rules to put in place.
It is the users of the data that need to agree on the rules to ensure that you are turning data into knowledge. Here’s a practical example from one of our clients:
The finance and sales teams could never agree on their end-of-month sales numbers.
One had included sales that had been pre-ordered, the other sales in the bank - this caused confusion as were giving different messages to the business on whether targets were being met.
Every month they had the same conversation as to which numbers were right. This wasn’t a data issue as the data was correct in both instances but required agreement on both sides as to the rules of how the data was going to be used.
They now have two measures, giving a coherent story that they share with the business and are able to spend more time planning rather than justifying numbers.
The benefits to a business of having defined “data rules” are very clear:
Clear data and messages for the business
Universal trust in the data
Trusted data being used to inform decisions
Reduced time being wasted, due to reinventing the data wheel
Data being used to identify new opportunities
Increase in revenue and profitability
I have two different analogies here that can be useful when embarking on putting data governance in place, looking at examples of team sports and company brand guidelines:
1. Governance is a Team Sport
It needs to be a team effort.
In fact we can learn a lot from team sports to demonstrate the importance of data governance on the business.
If a space man came from out of space and was presented with a football and told to play football - they wouldn't automatically know what they were supposed to do.
They could pick it up, run with it, throw it, based on what they felt was right, they wouldn't know how to play football until the rules were explained. And the game wouldn't be played in the most effective way until everyone was playing it in the same way.
Once they knew the rules, they could try new approaches, to continually improve how the game is played, and get better results.
2. Governance needs Guidelines
Another way of approaching it is similar to how brand guidelines are created. For any organisation their brand is an asset that represents them, who they are, their values and a shortcut to recognise them. Strong brands are consistent, colours, font, font sizes, imagery, tone of voice and language.
To do this doesn’t magically happen, there are teams of people who will be involved to keep the brand consistent.
Brand guidelines will have been created (i.e. the rules on how to use the brand)
And every single person who will represent the brand will have to stick to those guidelines and the use of them would be signed off by the brand guardian.
So how do we make sure that data projects don’t fail through lack of data governance?
Make it someone's job to own the rules. They might not define them but have someone responsible for getting them defined and agreed.
Get people engaged - Like most things, people will engage if it's relevant to them or if they understand the impact that it will have on them or their job.
Define the rules - make it a team sport to define and agree the rules.
Get everyone to use the rules - approach it like brand guidelines, ensuring everyone is aware of the data governance guidelines and works strictly to them.
If you would like further information on how to approach data governance, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you!