Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP walked into a bar…
Okay, a conference room—and announced the launch of the Open Data Initiative, a collaboration that aims to break down data silos and enable a single view of the customer. This, they believe, will enable companies to use advanced analytics and AI to use the data better to design better customer experience. Independently, Oracle announced Unity CX, a ‘comprehensive view of customer interactions across channels and applications’ that promises to eliminate customer blind spots.

Organizations across the board own billions of data records—customer data predominant among these–and would like nothing better than to

  1. Know these are reliable and secure.
  2. Access these easily.
  3. Use machine learning, AI and analytics to derive insights from these.

Couple these needs with the new GDPR mandates and all hell breaking loose over data security breaches, and you’ll know why CIOs all over are pledging to make data governance a bigger organizational priority than ever before. Here are some steps to take to create a winning data governance strategy.

Successful DG Program Steps

#1 Start small. Grow big.

It is very tempting for CIOs to want to establish a massive, organization-wide data governance strategy: after all, that is when maximum impact will happen. However, a more pragmatic, disciplined approach would be to see this as the end goal. Set intermediate milestones with associated timelines for the DGC and take a disciplined, one-goal-at-a-time approach. This will not only break down a much bigger problem into easily solvable components but also let you see the minutiae of each component and tackle them at the details level. Overall, this makes for a much more comprehensive data governance program while also maximizing your ability to meet deadlines.

#2 Get executive buy-in.

No DG program can be a success without the blessings (and pockets) of the board. Any CIO who champions DG must, therefore, start here. Setting clear metrics and building a case based on the improvements to these that will be brought about by the data governance program is the key to get executive buy-in. Do check out our previous blog post in which we’ve explained more strategies in detail.

#3 Identify all data sources.

All the data you have is going to be scattered across environments: shared files, servers, CRMs, cloud storage like Slack or Dropbox and so on. There could also be plenty of unstructured but useful data in text documents, on social media, or in images. With every additional source, a whole new set of processes, formats and rules come in (along with access and compliance complexities). These data silos must all be identified and brought under the purview of the data governance program and a common language developed for a unified view and use of these.

#4 Ensure data integrity.

A key objective of any data governance program is to ensure that the quality of enterprise data overall improves significantly. This can be done by first defining clearly what is good and bad data for the organization, at every level. Data must then be parsed and standardized against industry benchmarks as well as the organization’s own. Take a futuristic approach and explore also if new formats and types of data will come into the system given the direction the organization is moving.

#5 Establish a data-first culture.

To get to a ‘Data First’ culture, you will have to put people first. Because no matter how good the policy, process or technology, the human element will make or break the program. It starts with making sure that the importance of data governance and your DG program’s objectives are understood org-wide. Taking the best, most committed data enthusiasts into the data governance council (DGC) is a great way to spur action and generate wider reach for the program. Every data owner must know his/her responsibilities and accountabilities and have the tools and tech required to carry out these. Communicate proactively with everyone in the organization through emails, posters and talks and share updates about the work done by the DGC. Lastly, once the policies and processes are finalized by the DGC, training programs must be conducted to ensure that every data stakeholder knows what is expected and how to get their work done the new way.

#6 Put in place feedback mechanisms.

The DG processes you adopt must have a feedback mechanism incorporated to collect user feedback and use that to evaluate and improve the program. This will help build on the program’s strengths and identify weaknesses, loopholes and gaps to be addressed.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again–framing a data governance strategy and creating the DG policies is not a one-time exercise. As the organization evolves, regulations change, or the nature of data itself shifts, policies adopted may need to be re-evaluated and revised. What your data governance strategy will help you do is to address future data challenges in the best possible way. So approach it with this long term view and you will be set for success!

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