NOV 1, 2010 7:39pm ET

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As Goes Governance...


There's a column in the new issue of The Economist talking about nothing less than a "revolution" of corporate governance through transparency and accountability in American boardrooms.

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Comments (3)

This is a very thoughtful piece on this widely talked about subject. Thanks.

As you pointed out, the purpose of any form of governance is to provide a framework for working out different vested interests. For a long time, our industry didn't recognize or confront the fact that when it comes to data, there are many powerful vested interests inside an organization. I'm glad to see this talked about in the swell of conversations on data governance.

I also agree with your point that there is a real risk of data governance not producing benefits. If it introduces additional cost, limits agility, then it could actually be very damaging.

When we developed the framework behind our software product, Data Governance Director, we declared some basic principles:

1. Data governance is about having the right policies for data.

2. The policies need to balance central control and local autonomy. Local could be a geography, line of business, or functional area.

2. Data governance is the BUSINESS PROCESS of defining, implementing, and enforcing these policies.

3. Data policies need to sit on the intersection between data and business process -- otherwise it'd be very hard to know whether your policies are truly beneficial.

4. Policies need to be measurable through metrics.

Our data governance framework is described here:


Posted by Winston C | Wednesday, November 03 2010 at 1:01PM ET
Let's face it, corporate governance is an oxymoron. Regulations and legislation affecting companies are treated like tax law. It's ok to avoid taxes (tax avoidance), but not evade tax. It's ok to avoid regulations and legislation not evade them. Why do organizations consume so many legal resources? Why do they settle without admitting guilt? Because they are trying to be good corporate citizens and they govern themselves accordingly? It's just the nature of business.

I also don't think that changing CEO's will affect corporate governance since the culture is what governs, unless the CEO is a dictator. Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Madoff and the numerous other corporate leaders who have been paraded before us along with statements like "we're doing god's work" are the reality in business. Regulators attempt to control the abuses but these controls are always after the fact. The damage has been done. Besides, these organizations spend a great deal of time in avoiding the regulations in the first place. It's a rather vicious circle.

Adopting the term data governance from corporate governance could result in the same consequences; data management avoidance. "We have a data governance committee and policies. They meet and discuss al there is to know about data. Therefore we are practicing data governance!" The term is like customer excellence and firms install IVR's to handle customer complaints (your call is important to us please wait).

Besides data governance implies bureaucracy (read government). Private organizations abhor bureaucracy so why use a term that conveys bureaucracy. Besides, I still don't understand how you "govern" data. People are governed. Another problem with the term. Is data governance a Trojan horse and an attempt to take over IT or other departments? Am I paranoid or is this data governance effort nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the power of IT?

Why not just call it data management. The term implies some degree of control, oversight and action. That is what we are really talking about. Deploying data management best practices.

The term data governance is pretentious at best and fictional at worst.

Posted by Richard O | Wednesday, November 03 2010 at 3:57PM ET
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