Originally written by Nigel Higgs on LinkedIn Pulse.
We who have been in the data sphere a while and in and around Data Governance will have seen the pitch-decks, watched the webinars, read the blogs and attended the conferences. Some of us will have hired the staff, taken sage advice from expensive consultants and kicked off programmes to get the organisation up the Data governance maturity curve. It’s almost like a religion, Data Governance is so clearly the answer why can’t everybody in the organisation see it? It’s a no-brainer. Unfortunately and speaking as a Data Governance practitioner for far too many years I can honestly say that I have yet to see a fully functioning enterprise-wide Data Governance implementation. Look, I appreciate that could be down to my incompetence, but I know this is not an isolated or unique sentiment. Lots of peers, colleagues and people far smarter than me have been preaching the benefits of data administration, data architecture, data governance, or whatever it will be called next, for many years and yet many of them struggle to come up with success stories. In fact when pressed they often don’t have any!
So why so much denial? Einstein is reputed to have said something along the lines of ‘the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect the outcome to be different’. It is also reputed to be the most wrongly attributed and quoted platitude on the planet! But hey this is a LinkedIn post and like most of my writings nobody will read it.
What’s that got to do with Data Governance? Well, ‘Outside In Data Governance’ is about approaching the problem from a different angle. There is little doubt the problem Data Governance is trying to solve is very real. Very few organisations know what data they have got, what it means, where it is, who is responsible for it or what its quality is?
But how to solve the problem? What I typically hear is that you need to write a policy, form committees, define processes, assign roles and then everything will be working like clockwork within months – data governed, quality data delivered to users and the organisation flying up the data maturity curve. But is that what happens, does the story painted in the pitch-decks come into reality? Sadly, it very rarely if ever does.
What is needed is a value driven approach. Start with who are we doing a Data Governance approach for? We are doing it for the business users. Then ask what are they interested in? They are interested in something that makes their lives easier right now. So ‘Outside In Data Governance’ starts with a single business report and works back from there. Answer those fundamental questions (what, where, who and how good?) about the fields and outputs on the report and make that knowledge accessible. You could do this with a simple Excel based approach or maybe a Wiki or SharePoint; but pretty soon you will need some tooling to really make it scalable and responsive to increasing demands for more reports to be included in the scope. There are ways to do this in a ‘proof of concept’ environment and demonstrate the benefits before committing to spend. A friend of mine is fond of saying it’s easier to ask for forgiveness that for permission’. In this case he is right. There are browser based tools that sit outside your firewall and can offer this try before you buy approach.
This is what a value driven and lean approach is all about. If what you do in this small scale doesn’t get traction then what makes you think a £250k project will end up any better? Start small, ensure you get honest feedback from users at every iteration of your solution and focus on delivering value. If you bring the data users with you then they will demand the capability is extended. Beat the Einstein quote and start from the ‘Outside In’.