Shamma M. Raghib is a solutions expert in data governance at Collibra. She is driving data governance initiatives across the EMEA region. Apart from working at Collibra, Shamma is also a business data scientist, an advocate for women in technology and often works closely with local technology startups to enable high potentials. She recently spoke with Nicola Askham about all three roles, and her advice on what it takes to succeed with data governance.
Nicola Askham: How long have you been working in data governance?
Shamma Raghib: I have been working in data governance since 2015.
Askham: Some people view data governance as an unusual career choice, would you mind sharing how you got into this area of work?
Raghib: Back then, I had little understanding of the term “data governance”. In the software out there, most of them provide a very technical solution and ‘governance’ is just a very small part of it. Collibra approached me to work in this relatively unusual work field and I insisted on a short description of how the software works to address data governance initiatives.
After talking to my future colleagues, I was convinced that there is a high market need for data governance experts and the market needs a very comprehensive enterprise to do that with partners and experts to enable that. I was convinced that any data driven enterprise needs a collaborative platform that enables data producers and consumers. I personally believe that Collibra provides that solution.
Askham: What characteristics do you have that make you successful at data governance and why?
Raghib: Data governance is not about me as an individual, however for data driven organizations, to make data governance successful, it should be a very collaborative, co-operative initiative as a whole. I try to focus on that.
For low maturity data governance programs, the first step I ask them to take is to identify the key stakeholders who will drive the program, take ownership and responsibility, and govern rules.
Initially there are few things that the council should focus on – the rules that the program is creating (whether regulatory/policy/accountability etc.) and the engagement between the stakeholders. The next step is the process that the people need to follow in order to manage the data, cost, complexity, quality while ensuring compliance.
To make these initiatives successful, not only you need a buy-in from key stakeholders, with a vision and an end-goal, directive but you would also need to provide for successful change management. Over time, data governance should facilitate their work, provide trusted source(s) of data and enable them to keep making data value driven growth and change programmes in the organizations.
My approach to data governance initiatives is to identify what are the exact pain points that the customer want to solve and what is the immediate need. Then we can work from a top down approach or a bottom up approach depending on the needs. An assessment can be conducted to ensure long term sustainability of the proposed data governance structure.
Askham: Are there any particular books or resources that you would recommend as useful support for those starting out in data governance?
Raghib: The "DAMA Guide to Data Management" is a good base for understanding your key requirements on data governance. There are also other DGI frameworks you can look into. Moreover, compass.collibra.com is a good place to start searching for your operating model (to identify your key stakeholders, collaboration approaches, data / asset types, integration requirements etc.).
Askham: What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced in a data governance implementation?
Raghib: The biggest challenge I have faced is not external, it internal to the customer's organization.
Helping people to understand why a data governance program needs to be in place is the toughest job to do and can only be managed by leaders maintaining the expectations and enabling the work of the stakeholders. Apart from a tool that enables this, every data stakeholder should be able to see the short term and long term benefits. I try to focus on this while working with clients.
Messaging and managing expectations should be clear and change management should be done in phases to get people to understand that governance is not equal to control. The challenge is more to make them understand that data governance is more planning, managing, monitoring and enforcing data management by the people and processes in the organization.
Askham: Is there a company or industry you would particularly like to help implement data governance for, and why?
Raghib: I have always been a key supporter in enabling and helping the healthcare industry – especially around data governance. Because of the fast paced, high-growth system and data turnover of this industry, data management and governance of patient data is crucial to ensure patient data is maintained with a certain trusted standard and information source.
Currently the healthcare industries use varying degrees of data requirements and regulations around this are quite strict. At times, it can be difficult to find information as a doctor or nurse. Examples could be as simple as “What is the chemical name of medicinal product code mentioned in a patient report?” or it could be something challenging such as “When should I upgrade the system?”, “Where can I find information about a new system/ technology?” and so on.
Askham: What single piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in data governance?
Raghib: Part of my background is in business process management, which is a small component of data governance. For me it is key to get stakeholder buy-in before jumping into an initiative.
It is also key to maintain messaging around it and to realize that a tool should be in place to facilitate data governance initiatives and not to replace the existing landscape completely. The coordinated decisions made by business and IT need to be there as a data authority that understands the needs of both sides.
Askham: Finally, I wondered if you could share a memorable data governance experience (either humorous or challenging)?
Raghib: I found it funny that in one of my product demonstrations, the lady on the other side asked me, “How would you describe data governance to a 10-year-old?”. I was a bit taken aback, but I gave an answer which, in hindsight was not the best but it seemed to satisfy her query.
I said, “Data governance: when you are trying to look for a how-to-play guide for your new PS3 game, where do you look for it? Inside the help book or help section in the game. The fact that it is a rule in game companies that every game should have a guidebook or a help section, is due to a data authority performing data governance.”
(About the author: Nicola Askham -- "The Data Governance Coach" -- is a blogger syndicated with Information Management. This post originally appeared on her blog, which can be viewed here)
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