In my final blog post of the year, I have been extremely lucky to do a data governance interview with a very special person. Known as Father Christmas to my English readers and Santa Claus to my international audience, this person is the personification of Christmas.
Although he may not be your “typical” data governance person, it does play a crucial part in the success of his endeavours. Read on to find out how…
Nicola Askham: How long have you been working in data governance?
Father Christmas: Well to be honest, it’s not what I consider my main role, but it has formed a vital part of my activities for as long as I can remember.
Askham: Some people view data governance as an unusual career choice, would you mind sharing how you got into this area of work?
Father Christmas: To be fair I probably didn’t give it any thought for the first few hundred years, but as the population and the traditions of Christmas grew, it became obvious that I had to do something about my record keeping, so that I could continue to deliver the excellent service that children around the world have come to expect. So when I started noticing mistakes about who was on the Naughty and Nice Lists, I knew we had to do something to manage our data better.
Askham: I suppose you must create a lot of data?
Father Christmas: I certainly do. There’s the main records like childrens' names, their location, their behavior records, and also their taste in toys. History is very important as well – I don’t want to give a child the same present this year as last!
In the early days that was all we focused on, but then we realized lots of things need good data. For example maintenance records and flying hours for the sleigh. One year we found out to our cost what happens if you don’t replace key mechanical parts before they wear out!
Location data is also key in planning the optimal route for Christmas Eve. It used to keep a whole team of elves occupied all year updating and maintaining our geodata, but these days we source that data externally and that team have been able to return to their preferred toy making roles.
Askham: What characteristics do you have that make you successful at data governance and why?
Father Christmas: Now that would have to be my perfectionism and need for everything to be delivered seamlessly, also to exceed my customers expectations every single time. That makes me focus tirelessly on getting the data right so that everything happens just like magic on that one all important night of the year.
Askham: Are there any particular books or resources that you would recommend as useful support for those starting out in data governance?
Father Christmas: To be honest there wasn’t anything available as I was working out how to manage my data better! I think the first article I ever saw online, that mentioned data governance, was a scientific study of penguins in Antarctica. That was about 15 years ago and it was not really of interest to me as I’m based in the North Pole, not the South and had pretty much got data governance sussed by then!*
Askham: What was the biggest challenge you faced implementing data governance?
Father Christmas: That would be getting the elves to engage in the process in the first place – they really didn’t get what data had to do with making and delivering toys! It took me several attempts before I worked out that I had to explain data governance in terms of what it meant for them.
So when I stopped talking about the need to manage our data better in vague terms and started talking about making sure that the rights toys were made and delivered on time, to the right children, it started making sense to them and the initiative really started to be accepted and make a difference.
At that point it changed from mutterings about “he’s lost the plot” to elves clamoring to be data owners and data stewards – it was an amazing and heartwarming time!
Askham: What single piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in data governance?
Father Christmas: Don’t expect miracles, it is going to take a long time and be hard work but believe me, it will be worth it in the end!
So think on that for next year and then yule know what miracles data governance can truly help you achieve.
Ho Ho Ho!
*Interviewers note – If you think Father Christmas is making this up, I can assure you that that scientific study does indeed exist, I recall it being the first mention of Data Governance that I too ever found online!
(About the author: Nicola Askham is a professional blogger, and known as the Data Governance Coach. This post originally appeared on her blog, which can be viewed here)
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