What is Data Governance? Think Football

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what_is_information_governance.pngAs an data governance solutions company, we at DATUM get asked all the time, “What is Data Governance?” We end up explaining the concept a number of different ways because what resonates with one person may not relate to someone else.

I like to explain Data Governance using the game of American Football (in deference to our European friends), and specifically one role known as the Offensive Coordinator, or OC.

The Offensive Coordinator 

The Offensive Coordinator is tasked with designing the plays the offensive team will execute, as well as determining which play the offense will run during the game. The challenges the role presents relate to what the Data Governance Leader is responsible for.

During the week leading up to a game, the OC dissects the upcoming opponent and devises the offensive strategy, or better known as the game plan. In information governance terms, this game plan would be the overarching governance strategy (people, process, technology) that the organization will operate under.

During the game, the OC will call plays for the offensive team to run. These plays are consistent with the game plan but must also take into account the specific situation that the offensive team is in. There is a variety of factors that will go into each play call decision:

  • What down is it (1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th)?
  • Distance to gain for a first down or touchdown
  • Field position (where on the field do we have the ball?)
  • Score (Losing, Winning, Tied)
  • Time of the game (Early, Middle or Late)
  • Does the team have a timeout available?

Certain factors will take on a greater significance than others during a game. Field position is a key factor early on in a game. Score and time play a larger role late in the game.  

For example, if it’s 1st and 10 at my own 25 yard line early in the second quarter of a tie game, the OC might choose to run the football to tire out the defense and attempt a 4-5 yard gain. However, if it’s 1st and 10 at my own 25 yard line late in the fourth quarter of a game and I’m losing by 7, I would most likely choose to pass the football to try and score as quickly as possible.

The OC has a limited amount of time to address these factors and make a decision – usually about 10-15 seconds to make a call and relay it to the quarterback. Although a Data Leader doesn’t need to make a decision in a matter of seconds, they are still pressed for time. They need to make a quick decision with the information they have at that given time.

The Data Governance Leader

Like an OC, the Data Governance Leader will determine a governance strategy (game plan) that the data management organization (offensive team) will implement. A Data Governance Leader will consider a number of factors when designing a governance strategy including:

  • What is the Business impact and when will it affect the organization?
  • Available resources
  • Available technology
  • Overall Business Strategy
  • Regulatory and Compliance
  • Current in-flight projects

Now let’s use a specific example like we did for the OC. Say a metric, “Working Trade Capital” demands improvement by the C suite. In response, the business has decided to be very prescriptive and strict around the payment terms Customers and Vendors will receive.

They put forth some default standards and rules around the assignment of the payment terms. The implementation of these new requirements is left to the Data Governance Leader. They would therefore consider the following specific factors:

  • Do these new rules conflict with existing rules and standards?
  • How bad is the data against the new rules and standards?
  • Do these rules need to be applied on entry of data?
  • Where do I have the technical capability to manage these rules?
  • Change management impacts to the new rules and standards?

The Leader will then call the play, the data management organization executes, the metric improves, and the organization wins.

A digital enterprise needs a data governance strategy just as much as a football team needs an offensive strategy. Both strategies address the critical factors needed to make educated and team/business oriented decisions. To learn more about information governance strategy, I encourage you to read our White Paper, Getting Started with Data Governance.

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