Data Governance on a ‘shoestring’ budget - Nicola Askham

3 Aug 2020 19:05 | Sue Russell (Administrator)

Data Governance on a ‘shoestring’ budget - yes, it’s possible

Demand for data governance is increasing as the result of Coronavirus, and at a time where resources are scarce. There’s a huge focus on data because people want to be sure what they have is of good enough quality to make decisions about the future of their business and its survival.

However, at the same time demand’s going up, budgets are being cut. People are not spending money on data governance but, they want more of it! So, we've got this conundrum. If we're going to deliver data governance, it has to deliver some benefits. There's no point doing it for just the fun of it but how are you going to do that if you've got little or no budget? We need to deliver data governance of a shoestring budget.

So, the question I asked myself is what can we really do that's useful on that basis? Well, after 17 years in data governance I've learned that, practically, you can’t do data governance over everything and that it's also not useful to as all data is not of the same value to your organisation. We always need to consider carefully where we put our Data Governance focus on and now, more so than ever we need to be pragmatic - that’s where ‘minimal data governance’ comes in.

But what does this really mean in practice?

Well, it’s not the bare minimum to keep your regulator happy. It is not ‘just enough’ so you can say you are doing it. Minimal data governance has to deliver real value. If it doesn't, there's absolutely no point in doing it.  

But just because it's minimal it doesn't mean it's going to take less time. Data Governance takes a long time and I'm afraid the bad news is that minimal data governance also takes a long time.

Apart from anything else, you won’t get any value from it by trying to do it quickly because you won't do it properly. And therefore, you won't get the value.

So, can take minimal data governance be effective? 

Yes, I think it can, because I think it's probably the way I've been increasingly approaching Data Governance over recent years.  What I'm encouraging you to do is to be even more pragmatic and focused than I usually am, but I think if you do that, you should be able to deliver something on an inadequate budget that can deliver some real value to your organisation.

And, the secret to ‘minimal data governance’ is to identify one priority benefit because if you get Data Governance in place to deliver that correctly, some of the other benefits will start coming through anyway, and you'll be in a good position to then focus on delivering more of them. Benefits can include:

  • Improved efficiency/reduced costs
  • Accurate reporting
  • Facilitating compliance with regulation.
  • Protects your reputation with customers and suppliers.
  • Supporting your corporate strategy
  • Supporting innovation ie AI

Once you’ve focussed on what you want to get out of your minimal approach, you will need to define your scope - are we dealing with customer data, finance data or a subset of one of these categories? Really take this opportunity to identify a very limited scope. I think the best way of thinking about it is of doing data governance incrementally. What we're doing is our first phase is just going to be very tightly defined. Then when we deliver that, we'll be in a good place to roll it out further.

So, to be truly effective, you need to really bear three things in mind:

  • Be very focused on your scope - you know you should never be doing Data Governance over everything, but right now, let's have a really narrow scope and focus on just know one thing.
  • Do it properly - minimal Data Governance doesn't mean ‘let's just do it quick and dirty’. Do it properly - just with a very limited scope.
  • Do it in a way that is planning for the future - do it to deliver some very focused benefits now, but in a way that that framework can be evolved and implemented across the organisation in the future. Make sure it's going to deliver some benefits now, but you that can scale it - because you don't want to have to revisit this and do this again.

Nicola Askham - Data Governance Coach -

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