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Get Your Data Stewardship Together

Basically, your enterprise is only as good as the quality of your data. And one of the things I’ve noticed when dealing with clients is they either really prize data governance and data stewardship, or they don’t do it at all. And for the ones that don’t do it at all, it’s not really ingrained in their culture.  

The idea of data governance is that you have a body, or at least one person, but hopefully a group of people, who take a look at the data that are in your systems on a pretty periodic basis, to ensure that the quality and accuracy of the data is correct. This assumes that you have a business line owner or a software.  

I had a boss a long time ago who summed it up pretty well. She didn’t have a background in technology at all; she was an operations manager at a high-powered fashion firm in New York. And she always said, “Tim, when you don’t know where to go and you’re trying to get something done within a system, figure out who signs the paychecks. Go find the person who is paying for all of the people working on that system.”  

The person who owns the system – or at least pays for it – is always going to be a business person, not a technology person. And what you find out when you follow the money trail is that oftentimes in an organization that doesn’t prize and foster data governance and data stewardship, the person with the wallet shelled out the cash for that system. However, they don’t really interact with it much or talk to their people that interact with it on a day-to-day basis, other than at a superficial level.  

If you are going to instill a good culture for high-quality data governance, the first thing that you need to do is get your business line folks – especially the person who owns the system, along with their designates – in a room with the technical owner of the solution and the subject matter experts they have. Then, talk out what the technology folks are seeing for data, verifying with the business line folks whether the data looks good. If it doesn’t, come up with a plan for how to cleanse the data, or make sure that the data coming in is clean right away, or a mixture of the two.  

Data governance is the creation of a group of people which periodically meets and makes sure data is clean in the system, and not just clean, but accurate and actionable. Then data stewardship comes down to the business line, specifically the owner.  

Oftentimes, however, it isn’t the owner because they don’t have time to do this so they designate someone on their team who is a data steward. That person periodically goes in and either gets technical access from the technical team or works with the technical team on a pretty regular basis to make sure that not only is the data in the system good, but that processes are being followed to make sure that good data gets into the system in the first place.  

This group also champions any projects where cleanliness of data can be automated upfront as it comes into the system. Those things are critically important.  

More often than not, when I come in on a consulting gig, the companies talk about data governance and data stewardship, like they are good things. And from a therapy perspective, the first part of fixing a problem is acknowledging that you have a problem. But it’s frequently just lip service. They’ll appoint data stewards and things like that, but the business line is so busy trying to do what they do, they don’t actually spend the time that they need to spend.  

Making sure that you have a business line owner that prioritizes this and gives the data stewards the time that they need to actually devote to this is important, too. 

I’ve seen so many projects not work correctly because they don’t have a strong belief in data governance and data stewardship, which means that the data ends up being crappy. No matter how well-crafted the reports are, if the data is crap, you’re going to have angry business line owners saying, “Why do my reports suck?”  

Frankly, what you put into this is what you get out of it. And you need to put some energy into making sure the data in your systems is good so that the reports you get back aren’t just 

poop smeared on a page. 

The bottom line? 

If you’re going to spend millions of dollars on a system that’s supposed to help all of your people do stuff, you want to make sure that the stuff going in and coming out of it is good.  

Lack of data governance, and data issues in general, are way too common, and also extremely preventable. Want to make sure you never run into these issues again? Give us a call