JUN 9, 2011 10:39am ET

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Data Governance Star Wars: Give Yourself to the Bureaucracy


I was recently chatting with Jim Harris, the well-respected blogger-in-chief of the Obsessive-Compulsive Data Quality blog, about one of our favorite topics: data governance best practices. Our conversation migrated to one of data governance’s biggest challenges: how to balance bureaucracy and business agility.

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Comments (1)
Unfortunately data governance requires bureaucracy to become established. However once established it is possible to maintain data governance without a lasting bureaucracy. Data governance should be viewed as establishing a set of data management best practices that become intuitive. They become part of the fabric and culture of an organization. Just like project management has become intuitive in successful organizations. In these organizations no one has to enforce project management it is practiced day-in day-out. No one conceives of embarking on a venture without preparing a project plan even if it is preliminary plan.

Data governance can be designed to achieve this same level of intuition. When a new product or service is being considered people immediately begin to outline what information they will need to make the product as success. Where will this information come from what are the qualities of this data (not quality but qualities). This knowledge is captured in all conversations. Of course what is needed are some tools and techniques to facilitate this process like in project management where a simple tool such as a spreadsheet can be used to create a project plan. You don't need Microsoft Project to create a plan. Sometimes simple is better. Likewise other techniques can be deployed to ensure governance in the design development deployment and production of data.

My other suggestion for ensuring that the bureaucracy does not become a permanent burden is to consider the bureaucracy as having a limited life span. With one client I suggested that the bureaucracy for data governance be established for a period of up to 36 months and then summarily destroyed. If by that time the data governance practices have not been successfully deployed and become intuitive abandon ship. Data governance has failed. No need to maintain the facade anymore. At that point celebrate your success or failure as the case may be and try something else. Most people I suggest this too are shocked. But in today's world if a major change like data governance cannot be accomplished in less than 36 months it's a waste of time. That's not agile but it does limit the costs and impacts to a finite degree.

And with regards to Agile data governance I suggest give up. You can pretend to be agile by showing how you've addressed the low hanging fruit but as the tree begins to topple over many will realize your agility only provides you with the opportunity to run away from the impending doom of the tree toppling. Leave agile in the world of fiction.

Posted by Richard O | Thursday, June 09 2011 at 12:02PM ET
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