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Kelle O'Neal

Thanks for joining our data conversation! This blog is an opportunity to share the real life challenges, opportunities and approaches to improving the quality and value of data in your organization. We will write about everything data related from translating "data" speak into "business" speak, to governance models, to the real differences among the myriad software tools available. But there's one catch: we all have to agree to toss out the fluff. That's right, no 30,000 foot, theoretical strategies that leave you wondering how to execute and actually improve performance. Visit regularly to learn from peers and partners on how they are managing and improving data, and we hope you'll also share your views and experiences.

About the author >

As Founder and Managing Partner of First San Francisco Partners, Kelle O’Neal manages specialist data governance and data management consulting services to complex organizations that deliver faster time to results. Kelle can be reached at or through the First San Francisco Partners website.

Follow First San Francisco Partners on Twitter at @1stSanFrancsico.

Editor's Note: Find more articles and resources in Kelle's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

Getting people to adopt new data processes and policies is a common challenge for organizations that are getting started with data governance.

Organizations will have the greatest chance of success in overcoming this hurdle if they focus their efforts on ensuring data governance awareness, data ownership and accountability for actions.

Read on for 10 tips to help people take personal ownership of data governance beyond their job functions.
  1. Ensure that all people understand not only WHAT it is they are supposed to be doing but WHY.
  2. Educate people on the impacts of the data management processes and their behavior and how it can penalize or promote the organization's data initiatives.
  3. Plan for some of the training to be done in a cross-functional group so people can understand how their behavior, activities and roles impact others' jobs.
  4. Raise awareness of new data management processes and of progress that has been made over time through targeted communication. Communication can either be "pushed," where the Data Governance Office sends information such as metrics and milestones out to key business stakeholders, or it can be "pulled," where people have access to and can obtain information when they choose.
  5. Establish roles and responsibilities around data management that are aligned with business strategy, being sure to obtain agreement by the Executive Steering Committee first. Then assign roles to each resource, ensuring that each role is not specifically tied to any one person.
  6. Formalize the roles and announce their resource assignments to the organization so they are clearly understood, and individuals can effectively assume ownership.
  7. Align people behind the data goals of your organization and provide clarity on priorities and actions.
  8. Decide how best to encourage desired behavior as well as discourage undesirable behavior, depending on the cultural norms within your organization.
  9. Conduct a workshop or awareness session with the relevant cross-functional groups to ensure everyone hears the same messages as well as understands the broader program. This also provides a time and place for questions to be answered in a single forum.
  10. Establish a system to communicate, measure and monitor progress.
With a thorough understanding of the new data management processes, how they fit into the broader data governance program and how the program benefits the organization, as well as who is responsible for what and how each person's role impacts that of others, people gain a sense of personal responsibility for the success of the company -  that not only helps with adoption of data governance but motivates adherence to it as well.

Posted September 22, 2015 3:51 PM
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So, in your initial efforts to transform your company into the true data governance organization it is destined to become, you've successfully identified the best-fit operating model. Now what?

Now that you've articulated the specific roles and responsibilities that will best address your company's unique data needs and priorities, the next step is to assemble a team of people capable of making the right decisions about data and identifying business challenges that can be addressed using that data.

Focus your initial efforts on recognizing and involving those people and groups within your current organization who are already engaged in data management activities. Not only will this allow the enterprise to leverage existing corporate knowledge, but it will ensure cross-functional participation from data stakeholders and, importantly, minimize the impact to the current organization.

Survey the organization to determine who may already be fulfilling needed roles and responsibilities. Some questions to ask:
  • Who is creating the data?
  • Who is managing the data?
  • Who is measuring the data?
  • Who is ensuring data quality?
  • Does anyone have 'data' in their title?
Be thorough in your assessment. There may be people who "fly under the radar" - those whose title masks their engagement with data or who are part of a distributed organization where they may not initially be recognized as a functional member of the enterprise. 

Conducting a stakeholder analysis, as touched on in an earlier blog post, where individuals and groups are mapped according to their level of influence within the organization and level of interest in (i.e., impact by) the organizational transformation, may reveal additional prospects.

After compiling an inventory of "data people," identify any roles and skill sets that may be missing according to your data strategy. See if there other positions in the organization where people may have analogous yet transferable skill sets.

Beyond assigning people to new roles and, when appropriate, providing new titles, you'll need to review their compensation and performance objectives and ensure these are in alignment with expectations. You'll want to be sure that the new roles and responsibilities are assigned to the right people at the right level within the organization and with the right incentives so that when they are involved in decision making, they have the capability, credibility and focus to make the right decisions.

Only as your data management and governance needs grow - and internal resources are exhausted - should you seek to fill those roles by hiring from outside the organization.

Posted September 21, 2015 8:30 AM
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There are a number of factors that have been shown to play key roles in the success of a data governance initiative. In this post, we will explore these four:
  • Executive sponsorship
  • Leadership alignment
  • Communication
  • Stakeholder engagement
Executive Sponsorship

As the factor most often identified as the greatest contributor to the success of a change management program*, having the right executive sponsorship ensures that stakeholders impacted by a data governance implementation receive the necessary guidance to transition efficiently and effectively through the change. The executive sponsor should be someone who understands the initiative and who believes in it and fully supports it. And he or she must be able to effectively communicate with and engage other leaders in support of the changes. 

Action: At the outset, gauge the sponsor's understanding of his or her role and level of comfort in leading the data governance change. Provide clear guidance about what you need from them and exactly what you want them to communicate to the organization. Chances are they will appreciate the explicit direction and coaching.

Leadership Alignment

Another critical success factor is ensuring that leaders - at all levels - are aligned. This is concerned with questions like:
  • Is there agreement on and unified support for the need for a data governance program in your organization?
  • Is there agreement about what defines success in a data governance implementation?
If your leadership is not aligned, they will end up sending mixed messages which can lead to resistance and eventually derail the forward progression of change.

Action: Assess - and regularly re-assess - your leaders to identify disconnects and then take steps to address them quickly. This, of course, presents a great opportunity for your expertly coached executive sponsor to step in and reinforce expectations for support and commitment.


Also identified as a leading contributor to change management success, communication must start early (the earlier the better) and should continue openly and often. Stakeholders need to have a clear understanding of and be actively engaged in the change process. Messages should be customized according to stakeholder group - certain groups will require breadth of information about the governance implementation while those on the frontlines of the changes will need depth of information in order to perform their jobs appropriately. 

Whatever the message and to whomever it is going, keep repeating it until it is heard.

Action: Create a story around your governance initiative. Then build key, repeatable messages around it. Finally, test your messaging over time to ensure its effectiveness and adjust as needed.

Stakeholder Engagement
  • Who will be impacted by the data governance program?
  • How will roles and responsibilities shift?
  • How might those affected respond to the changes affecting them?
  • What issues and concerns will people have?
Individuals as well as groups and departments impacted by your data governance initiative will react differently to needed changes. How you engage these stakeholders - how you communicate with, respond to and leverage them - will have a significant impact on the success of your data governance initiative.

Conduct a stakeholder analysis to answer questions like those above. Having a clear understanding of the impacted individuals and groups will help you determine the best approach to engaging them in the change. Do the analysis early - the more you can anticipate reactions to the change, the more you can plan for them.

Insight gained during this exercise will also help you determine how to best allocate time and other limited resources, and it will enable you to more effectively prioritize and manage your overall change efforts.

Action: One way to determine the best approach to engaging different stakeholders in the change process is to map each individual or group according to level of influence within the organization and level of interest in the data governance implementation.

Stakeholder Engagement Quadrant_revised lower left.JPG
In the above diagram, we can see that for an individual in a highly influential position, even though they may only be marginally impacted by the data governance change process, it will still be important to meet their needs. You want to be sure they support the program, so that when they talk about it, it is in a positive light. For an individual or group that is highly impacted by-- and therefore highly interested in -- the change but who may have a low level of organizational influence, you would want to show them a lot of consideration and support. They may not be a key player, but at least they will buy-in to the program and they won't be speaking negatively about it.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to implementing a data governance program, it is essential to focus your efforts and limited resources on those factors that have been consistently shown to have the greatest impact on the program's success. While those discussed above represent only four of them, they underscore the critical role that people play in an undertaking often viewed as fundamentally technology-based.

For more information on organizational change management for data governance success, view these slides or watch this webinar (presented jointly with our partner, Pam Thomas, of IMCue Solutions).

*According to Prosci studies on best practices in change management

Posted August 24, 2015 12:03 PM
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In previous posts, we talked about how choosing the right operating model and employing organizational change management can impact the success and sustainability of your data governance program. Now we share our Top Eight Data Governance Design Principles (also published here) to help keep your program in the right direction.

1. Be clear on purpose
Build governance to guide and oversee the strategic and enterprise mission.

2. Use enterprise thinking
Provide consistency and coordination for cross-functional initiatives. Maintain an enterprise perspective on data.

3. Be flexible
If you make it too difficult, people will circumvent it. Make it customizable (within guidelines), and people will get a sense of ownership.

4. Simplicity and usability are the keys to acceptance
Adopt a simple governance model people can use. A complicated and inefficient governance structure will result in the business circumventing the process.

5. Be deliberate on participation and process
Select sponsors and participants. Do not apply governance bureaucracy solely to build consensus or to satisfy momentary political interest.

6. Align enterprise-wide goals
Maintain alignment with both enterprise and local business needs. Guide prioritization and alignment of initiatives to enterprise goals.

7. Establish policies with proper mandate and ensure compliance
Clearly define and publicize policies, processes and standards. Ensure compliance through tracking and audit.

8. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Frequent, directed communication will provide a mechanism for gauging when to "course correct" managed stakeholders and effectiveness of the program.

Posted August 20, 2015 9:24 AM
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Does it feel like you're just spinning your wheels when it comes to implementing data governance at your organization? 

If you find your organization repeatedly going through the process of initiating a data governance program or your efforts just seem to fall flat, let me share with you why success may be eluding your organization and what can be done about it.

People: The Chief Obstacles to Data Governance Success

Companies often blame poor data management infrastructure when a data governance implementation fails. In reality, while that can make it more difficult, it isn't usually the biggest obstacle to success. The greatest obstacles tend to be things like:
  • Competing priorities
  • Lack of resources
  • Data ownership and other territorial issues
  • Lack of cross-business unit coordination
  • Lack of data governance understanding
  • Resistance to change, transformation or accountability
  • Lack of executive sponsorship and buy-in
  • Lack of business justification
  • Inexperience with cross-functional initiatives
  • Personnel changes
The common thread running through all of these? People.

Implementation means change. A data governance implementation, in particular, involves changing your information management culture, processes and policies. It means asking people to change the way they think and behave about how data is accessed and used. And more often than not, it means diving into the unfamiliar or unknown.

If there is to be any chance of success with a data governance implementation, you must plan for and manage that change.

Employing Organizational Change Management for Governance Success

Change management is typically viewed as having two sides:
  • A situational/business side, which focuses on the who, what, when, where and why of the change
  • A psychological/people side, which addresses the reorientation people go through as they come to terms with their new situation
While the situational side of change management tends to be relatively easy to anticipate and plan for, the psychological side is more complex. However, for change to be successful, BOTH sides must be addressed.

Focusing on the psychological side, we can look to organizational change management for an organized and systematic approach to address the people side of change.

Organizational change management involves helping people through change quickly and successfully so that business value is achieved. It involves anticipating and observing individuals' reactions, proactively identifying and addressing problems and needs, and closely monitoring and responding to feedback so that change adoption can proceed smoothly and efficiently.

An organizational alignment action plan can be prepared in advance of change to provide guidance. This tool helps ensure:
  • Processes, practices and procedures are updated to reflect the new way of doing things
  • Roles and responsibilities are redefined or created in support of the changes
  • Performance goals and recognition/reward structures are realigned to encourage and reinforce the new behaviors and ways of working.
Success metrics will need to be defined and accepted. Strong leadership and sponsorship from key executives will also be important to encourage acceptance and buy-in.

Once transition is under way, pay attention to feedback and how people are reacting to the new requirements and respond accordingly. It will be important to hold people accountable so they don't slip back into old behaviors. But, be sure they have or can easily access needed resources and support, including training. Also, listen closely to any pushback occurring - what is it telling you? The pushback may be a source of new ideas or approaches in addressing the data governance program.

Successful transition will only be possible, however, if all of those involved in or impacted by the planned change have a full and clear understanding of exactly what's changing and what that means in terms of required behavior changes. It will be up to the organization in what may be one of its greatest challenges to effectively communicate that change and help people successfully navigate through it.

William Bridges, in his book, Managing Transitions, identifies "Four P's" to help guide companies in effectively communicating through transition. Adapting those to a data governance implementation, we have:
  • Purpose: Why the company is implementing data governance why it is important to the business and why it is important to the individuals in the organization
  • Picture:  What the future state will be once data governance is implemented
  • Plan: Actual steps and a timeline to get to the future state
  • Participation: What each individual's role will be both during the transition and once at the future state
Communication should start early and continue openly and frequently throughout the transition. Messages will need to be customized to stakeholder group impacted executives and managers will want a to have a broad understanding of governance changes and will require a different message than data stewards, owners and custodians who will need a deeper understanding of the changes to perform their jobs effectively.

Embedding Organizational Change Management for Governance Sustainability

As you progress in your data governance implementation, it is essential to go beyond just employing change management practices to get people from point A to point B - you must embed them into your company culture and operations. This will give your organization the greatest chance of achieving data governance success over the long haul.

Organizational Change Management.JPG
To sustain governance change, there must be alignment of:
  • Organizational structure/Sponsorship
  • People/Jobs/Accountability
  • Policies/Practices/Procedures
  • Incentives/Reward structures
  • Performance management
You'll want to assess whether the changes have become an integral part of the way in which your organization works and whether previously defined success metrics are being achieved. Then, as needed, identify and implement actions to reinforce changes.

Ultimately, the success of your data governance is in the hands of the people in your organization. But it is up to you to provide the guidance and support to enable them to navigate past the resistance and fear of the unknown and through the change to a successful program. 

Organizational change management provides an effective framework for managing all aspects of this change, and it allows your organization to have the greatest chance for data governance success and sustainability.

For more information on organizational change management for DG success, view these slides or watch this on-demand webinar (presented jointly with our partner, Pam Thomas, of IMCue Solutions).

Posted August 14, 2015 5:50 PM
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