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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!

January 2012 Archives


As I'm thinking about my goals for 2012, I realized how similar this process is to setting up a Data Governance Program. Like many people, every year over the holidays I take stock of what happened the year before, what I enjoyed, what I didn't, and what I'd like to do in the coming year. I resolved to exercise more (resolved to do this last year), create more work-life balance (also on last year's list), climb a mountain (yes, this one too), and write my blog more regularly (not exactly on last year's list - last year's was to start a blog). And like last year, it starts out with a lot of enthusiasm that eventually wanes by March. Needless-to-say, this is a repetitive and not-necessarily productive process.

This process is similar to what I hear from clients who resolve to start a Data Governance program, only to get distracted and make the same resolution over and over. "I need to set up a Data Governance Program. I started one last year, but also had to respond to a regulatory request, so it fell apart." And, "I know I need to better govern my data. It's on my list to do this year." Or, "I realized that many of our processes are redundant and we need to focus on streamlining in order to improve data quality and accuracy. This year, we are going to do governance!" So with the best of intentions, companies start a Data Governance Program that over time starts to disintegrate. Like a New Year's resolution, what can be done to continue the enthusiasm and make a Data Governance Program stick? Following are some thoughts on extending Data Governance beyond the launch and keeping your resolution.

Create a resolution that is personal and measurable. Saying I'll "exercise more" is nebulous and unclear when the goal is met. Is it more than last month? Last year? Or more than the neighbor who rides his bike more than he works? A more motivating goal would be "to exercise 3 times a week". It's flexible enough to accommodate business travel, but still a higher number of days than last year, and certainly easy to keep track. It's SMART.

Starting a Data Governance Program with the goal of "improving data" is similarly nebulous and unclear. Rather, identify a meaningful and measurable goal that can encourage success. What about creating a Data Governance Program to "be able to better identify whom to call about which types of data" (Ownership and Accountability)? Or, "to reduce the number of Customer data duplicates by 30% in six months" (Quality)? Or, "to ensure that new systems aren't implemented that create new data issues" (Process and Quality)? The good news is, like New Year's resolutions, there can be more than one goal for Data Governance. And also like a resolution, the goals can be revisited on a regular basis to ensure they still fit the demand for data and the strategy of the company.

Understand why it's meaningful. By understanding why that resolution is important, it's more likely to remember why that resolution was made in the first place. For example, creating more work-life balance may not be critical now, but come April, when baseball season starts, I'll want to have a process to get my work done so I can attend late afternoon games. Creating a habit of working smarter not harder or delegating more may not happen overnight, so it's important I stick with it and make it routine.

Similarly with Data Governance, understanding why it's important to start up and maintain Data Governance will help to keep the interest and involvement of key participants. Perhaps the organization is coming under greater regulatory scrutiny and needs to have better processes for tracking data creation and changes throughout the organization. As those new processes are identified and implemented, reminding everyone of the importance of data accuracy to compliance will help to prevent people from reverting to previous (bad) habits.

Be accountable. One of the biggest reasons that New Year's resolutions aren't kept is because it's easy to not keep them. After all, who knows if you fail? Other than yourself, of course. Most people don't publish their New Year's resolutions, so they don't have to explain to anyone why they are still carrying around 10 extra pounds. By involving others and having someone else help to hold you accountable, you are more likely to keep your resolutions.

This concept also works from a business perspective. If there is an announcement to the organization that a Data Governance Program is being launched and is going to improve the reporting efficiency by providing higher quality data, chances are those people who create the reports will come looking for those data improvements that improve productivity.

Get a coach. Many times we believe we know what it takes to accomplish that New Year's resolution, yet get discouraged when we are doing what we think is right and we still aren't accomplishing that goal. Using a trainer has worked well for me because not only do they keep me accountable, they also have several more ideas on what I could be doing to accomplish my goal.

Data Governance can seem daunting when embarking on the process. There is a lot of literature about "best practices", but it's also helpful to have an experienced partner to call on when something occurs that isn't printed in a whitepaper. Bringing in a coach, a partner, a trainer, whatever they are called, can provide creative ideas on how to implement Governance in the organization based on years of practical experience, not just reading literature. As well, they can be a third party that tracks stated goals and progress, and maintains accountability of the individuals and the program.

So having laid out a "4 Step Program to Resolution Success", the most important step is just getting started. What are your goals for 2012?

Posted January 4, 2012 11:24 AM
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