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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!

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
Permalink | 1 Comment |

1 Comment

Great tips. I particularly agree with the need to constantly re-assess the alignement of senior leadership against the overall goals and objectives.

However, bringing in the executive sponsor to re-enforce a message will not always work if a business lead is not engaged or supportive. In some cases it puts the exec sponsor into a position where they are expending their personal credibility to convince a leader to follow a path, when that leader may have genuine greivances or immediate challenges to which they feel data governance is not the answer.

In these cases I find it can be better to step back for a few months. The best way to get someone back on board is to fix a problem for them, and only reveal afterwards that it was data governance that resolved it (for example by removing ambiguity over data meaning, or by applying data quality checks to a master data source).

Fixing problems is always a great way to get a senior lead's engagement, but the overall goals and objectives of data governance must be there first. That way the "fix" is just a small part of a bigger strategic win for the organisation.

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