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End-User Computing: A Challenge for Data Governance Leadership

End-User Computing (EUC) is the realm of spreadsheets, word processing, presentations, email, stand-alone users, individual devices, and file sharing applications like Dropbox. It is fair to say that EUC is not a traditional focus of data governance in many organizations, although individual aspects of EUC may be dealt with.  However, it is also easy to appreciate that there is a great need for data governance in EUC environments. Why then is data governance not taking a more proactive role and addressing EUC in a holistic way?

Corporate Systems and Data Governance

To answer this question we need to understand what data governance focuses on and why it does so. In many enterprises, data governance has grown out of IT or operations, or both. IT is heavily concerned with systems that it has developed or which it has acquired and configured (leaving cloud out of the discussion for the moment). These are corporate systems. Operations is a major user of corporate systems and creates processes around how the data is managed in them.

Given this, it is little wonder that data governance focuses on corporate systems. The situation is more than just the product of historical developments. IT and operations are two powerful constituencies that data governance seeks to support, and keep happy.

By contrast EUC is dispersed across the enterprise, with no single powerful constituency that can make demands of data governance about it. There may be concentrations in some departments, such as actuarial or sales, but no organizational unit that broadly covers EUC. 

Why is There EUC?

This fragmentation of EUC is compounded by the fact that EUC has often been adopted as a response to lack of support by IT and inadequate functionality in corporate systems. EUC users can often feel frustrated by this situation and quite justified in the choices they have made to acquire their own tools and process data in the way they want to. 

However, there is more. Some users operate outside of traditional corporate centers, such as salespeople who are on the road a lot, or individuals in small branch offices in locations that are remote from corporate centers, e.g. in a country that an enterprise has recently expanded into. These users may never have corporate support. Then there are other users who have to do heavy analysis, such as modelers and actuaries who need tools where they can load and manipulate data. There are rarely corporate systems available with the functionality these users need.

Conversion to Corporate Systems

For IT, EUC is a headache because there is a lot of non-standard software that needs to be administered and the EUC applications often exist outside of corporate IT services, such as those that ensure backups and security. Because of this, IT often tries to get EUC environments converted to corporate systems. However, this is difficult because IT often has nothing to replace the tools used in EUC, and has often caused users to adopt EUC because of poor responsiveness. 

IT may try to introduce policies that effectively prevent staff from using EUC tools. This too rarely works as it prevents business people from getting their jobs done. Indeed, it is often hypocritical as spreadsheet use is generally rife within IT itself. 

The Position of Data Governance

Data governance is not in the same position as IT with respect to EUC, and does not have to accept IT’s views on EUC. However, EUC is often not a priority for data governance. As noted earlier, many data governance units focus their efforts on dealing with IT and operations, and there is no natural constituency that represents EUC that data governance can deal with.

Equally, EUC is often somewhat mysterious to data governance staff. There is not a lot written about it in the literature. Other, more familiar topics such as data quality and data definitions are likely to be areas in which data governance focuses its activities.

Yet another factor is that users involved in EUC often resist any attempt to get them to standardize or rationalize their practices. This may partly be because of attempts by IT to eliminate EUC. 

Given this background it is little wonder that data governance units do not engage EUC. Yet, this is a mistake.  Data governance needs to take a leading role in enterprises – that it, take its proper place as an equal alongside units such as IT and operations. EUC offers an opportunity to do this because EUC is fragmented across the enterprise with no single constituency representing EUC users. Thus, data governance can start to inculcate good data management practices in EUC environments without having to engage any major constituency. Data governance can simply work with groups of EUC users. In doing this, data governance will be playing a leadership role. Achieving success with EUC will create prestige for data governance, improve its maturity, and enable it to operate as a full partner in the enterprise.

How Can Data Governance Begin to Lead?

This sounds logical, but it also seems a tall order. How can data governance take a leading role so that it can address EUC governance? 

One way is for data governance to get control of data policies. This should be easy, given that there is usually little interest in data concerns elsewhere in the enterprise. IT may be an issue. Nearly all enterprises have IT policies, and it is often the case that IT tries to cover data concerns in its policies. Despite this, IT is rarely really interested in data, so in theory accountability can be moved to Data Governance.

Data Governance can then begin to issue policies on EUC. A major point here is the need for data governance to understand the policy life cycle fully, have high quality policy templates, high quality policy content, and provide support for policies. All too often, policies are just written in a vacuum and thrown onto a shared server where they are left for business people to stumble across.  This is not the place to discuss how data policies should be managed. The point is that policies can be used to establish data governance leadership, and EUC governance is an area where they are sorely needed.

EUC provides data governance an opportunity to do the right thing on its own initiative without trying to satisfy a large constituency. It is a good thing to do and can be an avenue to cementing data governance as a function among equals within the enterprise.

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