(Editor’s note: Helen E. Romanowsky will speak on the topic “Stakeholder community data governance leadership: Enabling data to boldly go where data hasn’t gone” at the MDM & Data Governance Summit in Chicago, July 11-14).

It is people that most often make or break a data governance program. If people aren't engaged, no amount of policies, responsibilities charts or tools will get them to wholeheartedly apply sustained discipline to the data they use or create.

To be successful, governance programs require that data stakeholders look at their data through a different lens. That often means changing their data management practices.

Sometimes it takes either a lot of convincing, or a leap of faith, to get people to adopt the methods that implement and sustain highly effective data governance. They have to deal with emotional obstacles. They have to deal with paradigm shifts. They have to deal with feelings of inadequacy by being asked to perform new tasks they don’t have the skills for.

Change management is a practice that enables us to help people make transitions to the world of data governance easier or at least more understandable. By looking at how best to manage the people side of data governance programs, we can help to make the transitions more palatable and more useful to those involved.

A lot of information is available on the steps and facets of data governance program design and implementation. I would encourage everyone to also look closely at how to include the people-oriented aspect of change that these data governance programs impose.

I have found it imperative to work with an experienced change manager. Doing so joins the people side of engagement with the technical side of data governance, resulting in a holistic landscape with which to work.

Decisions on data governance programs ultimately affect many different stakeholders, some of whom are unknown when those decisions are made. Understanding the entirety of the people that are affected is where a lot of the change management aspects come into play.

Widening the net to engage as many people as possible helps ensure the program is effective. Creating a data governance program behind closed doors with just a select few participants can be a recipe for disaster.

Engagement depends on knowledge and buy-in, so don’t short-change your efforts by limiting participation. Communicate with as many data stakeholders as you can, especially with those who have taken on data community leadership roles.

Data stakeholders want to be part of the process of creating, implementing and sustaining a data governance program. They want to know that their knowledge is appreciated and taken into account when decisions are made about policies, procedures, business rules, metadata and tools.

This involvement is essential to ensuring long-term success. People can accept change as long as they feel that they had a part in making that change.

While all of this may sound somewhat obvious, the sad reality is that many data governance programs do not take this into account.

The data stakeholder community is a force that should not to be ignored. Indeed, it is a critical aspect to success. It takes a variety of roles and a variety of experiences with data to understand how the business creates and uses data in daily business processes and decision making.

We can feel that sometimes we are flying into the unknown as we start or sustain data governance programs because there is so much data that we need to address. I resonated with the words of Captain Kirk from Star Trek when he said: “there's no such thing as the unknown - only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

I encourage you to look at data governance as just temporarily not understood. Using change management with a data governance program increases the understanding of what needs to be done to maximize data stakeholder engagement.

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