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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 kelle@firstsanfranciscopartners.com 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!

June 2011 Archives

In our last post, we introduced the importance of sanctioning titles and roles in a Data Governance organization in the same way you label, approve and use data and metadata definitions. Although this seems intuitive, there are many organizations where all people associated with Data Governance are informal and nobody has the terms Data Governance (or Data Steward or Data Custodian or Data Librarian or...) in their titles.

There are a few ways to go about getting the titles sanctioned:

Demonstrate why it's important. One of the most common goals of establishing Data Governance is to determine who is responsible for what data so that when someone needs a certain type of data, they know where to look, who to ask, and what that data means. If titles don't clearly reflect that data responsibility, then that goal cannot be accomplished.

Get the Human Resources department involved. Sometimes it is difficult to get new titles approved, but find out whether that is possible and what you need to demonstrate in order to get a new title approved. Do you need to show that you spend a certain amount of your time in a role? Then quantify that time. Sometimes if you do the research, let your boss know what is necessary (and possibly do it for him/her), then you may be able to push it through the bureaucracy more quickly.

Use it anyway. Even if it's not possible to get the data role formally incorporated into your title, go ahead and use it as a "sub-title" in the footers of your emails, on presentations, anywhere you list your name and any time you are communicating to a group of people. Word of mouth spreads quickly and when people know who to go to for data questions, they will reach out frequently.

Accountability and Ownership cannot be implemented or enforced if it is not clear who is accountable or responsible. A key goal of Data Governance is creating the accountability about keeping data clean, secure and available so that the company can better comply to regulations and make better data-driven decisions.

Posted June 16, 2011 10:42 PM
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Most data initiatives such as data quality, Master Data Management, data integration and data consolidation start with an exercise of labeling data. Some typical labels include identifying entity types, agreeing on definitions, defining metadata, and identifying data attributes that are important or shared across an organization. This is not only helpful to define the scope of the initiative but also to establish a common language around data so that everyone understands, contributes and is able to make right decisions. There are milestones in the data project in which those labels are confirmed and sanctioned, and although difficult, those milestones are achieved and the project and implementation move forward.

It struck me yesterday when I was speaking with an Insurance industry client that many Data Governance programs begin in the same way. A typical grass roots program starts with the recognition that there are certain people in the company that share a common interest about data quality since they create it, use it or manage it as part of their daily jobs. They may start meeting informally and label their team as the "Data Governance Council". They soon realize that the work they do falls into industry labels such as a Data Steward or a Data Custodian and they start referring to themselves by those labels.

Where the similarity tends to stop and where a grass roots program tends to have challenges and hit a wall is when agreeing upon those titles and labels and making them public becomes necessary. After all, which groups within the company are able and willing to come together to discuss and agree upon or sanction those new titles? Would it be their managers? Senior managers? And does human resources need to be involved?

Answering these questions is challenging for informal Data Governance Councils who have limited authority unless the organization as a whole recognizes the members of the council and accepts their role and why it is important. Sanctioning the authority of that council and those roles is equally important as sanctioning data definitions. Otherwise, no one will proactively concern themselves with the value of data in a company. Without this sense of ownership and accountability, there will be no action to improving data quality.

So how does an organization confirm and sanction those labels, titles, roles and responsibilities? How does an organization define who is authorized to confirm and sanction those labels?

Have you been able to overcome this hurdle in your organization? Please share your experiences - in the next series of posts I'll look to some of the ways our clients have addressed these issues with success.

Posted June 2, 2011 1:35 PM
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