Is Data Governance 20% Technology?

Last year, I met with the data governance lead of a London-based consulting company. We had a rich and wide-ranging discussion. With considerable violence, we agreed on the need for data governance, and the best way to do it. But when I brought up Kalido software, he clammed up and said, “Data governance is about people and process. Not about technology.”

More recently, I heard people putting percentage on this debate: “Data governance is 80% people and process, 20% technology.”

I’m reminded of the nature-nurture debate on individual development. The common sense conclusion is that most successful and happy individuals had both. But it doesn’t prevent people from emphatically stating that it’s all nature, or all nurture, or assigning percentages.

Vendors like to use terms that describe business practices for technology offerings. This understandably comes across as a little presumptuous to people who focus on people and process. But this sentiment doesn’t make the case for diminishing the importance of technology. The right technology enables a business practice by complimenting people and process to create a new business capability, which would not be achievable with any of the three legs of the stool missing.

The enterprise architect at a CPG company told me that his company’s data governance program was driven from a set of swim-lane diagrams in PowerPoint. Data stewards did their work with email and Word documents. It was extremely labor-intensive and not very effective. Imagine having to track thousands of data policies, rules, and their associated connections to business processes, data definitions, IT systems, and organizational structures using Word. More crucially, because there was no workflow, many process steps were simply not followed. And, the lack of monitoring and audit trail means they could not measure and track compliance, and ultimately, to establish accountability. As a result, the data governance program at his company faced strong headwind. Hearing these stories drove us to build a product.

Data governance is a business process, and we need technology to automate and operationalize these processes, just like CRM technology support customer facing people and processes. In developing Kalido Data Governance Director, we worked with leading SIs, industry experts, and end customers to design a product to supports best practices. Obviously I don’t believe that all you need to establish data governance is to install our software. We’re partnering with consultancies so that as a team, we can address people, process and technology.

CRM is about people and process, too, but you’re not going to be 80% successful if you use index cards.

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