What to expect when you launch a Data Governance Committee

Launching a Data Governance Committee is an important step for any organisation that’s serious about better managing data. But it’s not a ‘tick in the box’ exercise – to get your committee working effectively takes ongoing effort, lots of communication – and realistic expectations.

Let’s take a step back first and clarify: what is a Data Governance Committee (DGC)?

The DGC is responsible for oversight, support and funding recommendations for data governance activities and initiatives. The DGC manages specific data governance initiatives, such as developing and implementing data-related policies and metrics, issues, and issue escalations. 

Ok, so you’ve appointed your committee, you’re ready for the big launch – what to expect?

1. Not all committee members will be on the same page

Not everyone on your committee will be data experts or be familiar with data governance. Not everyone will fully understand the role of the committee. Not everyone will be rejoicing in their new role. But this is all normal! There will be varying levels of understanding, engagement and expertise. Like any human endeavour, this can be messy. You can expect a typical ‘storming, norming and performing’ process – where the initial stages involve a degree of confusion and dissent as different interests come together. Then a period of norming where the committee works out the purpose of data in the organisation and their role in managing it. Then performing as you move through these issues and push for improvement.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Creating your DGC is a change management exercise, and it helps to treat it as such. That means you need a launch plan that includes all the pieces of communication that will help the committee and the wider company understand the change. Some examples of comms material that we’ve worked with clients to prepare:

3. Uncover data issues

You can’t do data governance well without uncovering and understanding your data issues. Typically, a data governance committee will experience a pendulum effect when it comes to issues. At first, members will struggle to understand what a data issue is – for example – rather than a missing field in a spreadsheet, a bigger problem that inhibits a business goal.

Then, when the penny drops, the pendulum often swings the other way. You’re drowning in data issues! But the key here is that the committee doesn’t need to have all the answers. Instead, they need to delegate effectively to data stewards to investigate the root cause of the issue and make decisions to fix it. It’s a critical part of your data culture to make data stewards accessible to the rest of the organisation, and empowered to come up with solutions.  

4. Decide to decide

Aim for leadership from your committee, not just showing up for a talkfest. We find it helpful to force decision-making, such as a goal of three decisions per meeting. If there needs to be funding, then make a decision to create a business case – determine the cost to the business (both financial and non-financial), acknowledge the priority and impact, and research the cost to fix the issue. 

Finally, your Data Governance Committee is the tip of the iceberg in the cultural change required to become a data-driven organisation. Your committee needs to show true leadership – to understand the different mindsets across the organisation around data, and bring their tribes along on the improvement journey.

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