When implementing data governance (DG), enterprise information management (EIM) or any similar business program, strong sponsorship is essential. Without it, a new program is all but guaranteed to fail.
But sponsorship can mean different things to different organizations. Often there is no clear understanding of what the role of Business Sponsor entails, and this may present a very real challenge. When success evades a new program, it may be because the sponsor has missed the mark and failed to progress the program to a point of sustainability. We have observed this in many organizations we have worked with.
Let's consider a different term: engagement. Engagement means there is leadership embracing accountability for success. Engaged leaders go beyond just buy-in and typical sponsorship activities in order to effect change. Programs and initiatives like DG and EIM are more likely to succeed--and the success more likely to be sustainable--when business leadership prevails.
That's not to say that the role of Business Sponsor--or the concept of sponsorship in general--should necessarily be eliminated from the equation. Indeed, a very powerful Sponsor will be able to secure needed buy-in and engagement. But when that is not the case, you may need to shift from a sponsorship model to one of leadership to be effective.
This transition should occur in three stages.
Stage 1: Align the Program to the Business
Look at enterprise needs--not user wants--when setting up the program. An enterprise need, for example, might be "to increase brand awareness." The program should then be structured so that it supports these kinds of overall business needs.
Indeed, it is common for stakeholders to think alignment is about granting access to all transaction details. But that is not what is meant by alignment in this context.
Stage 2: Develop a Vision
Create a vision for the program and a purpose for why the program is being implemented and resourced. But be practical. The vision must support that of the enterprise where data assets are adding to business value.
Stage 3: Pivot and Operate the Program
Once program goals and objectives have been aligned with those of the enterprise, and armed with your vision, you can then start to engage the organization in rallying behind the plan. You'll want to be sure to identify who needs to participate, when and how. Be as specific as possible--details are important here.
There are multiple ways to approach this. You might hold an orientation or a series of meetings, or you might establish operational groups. You may also decide to hold a Pivot Workshop, which can help you pull together cross-functional leaders in the organization.
The key is to plan the pivoting from being developed to being operational--and from being business sponsored to truly business led.
And don't forget to follow through: Summarize results and activities and follow-up to ensure continued accountability and program sustainability.
This post was written jointly with First San Francisco Partners' John Ladley and drawn from our January 7, 2016 CDO Webinar, The Difference between Business Sponsored and Business Led. For an expanded discussion of this topic, watch the video replay or view the slide deck.