Association Analytics Blog

Getting Started with Data Governance for Associations

Apr 7, 2014 8:41:22 AM / by Jasmin Ritchie

Data governance is a cross-functional management activity that at its core recognizes data as an enterprise asset which is used to achieve strategic and operational goals. Data governance is also one of the most talked about, yet elusive, elements in the data management space.  We know that governance is mission-critical in achieving an association’s desired data management goals.  However, initializing and maintaining a successful data governance program can be challenging for many associations.  Having a data governance program will position your association for success. data governance for associations

Understanding that your data is an asset unique to your association is key to communicating and getting buy-in for its importance throughout the organization. Data governance ensures that data can be trusted, and that people are held accountable for its quality. As an organization begins the data governance journey, it is important to take into consideration the following:

  1. Acknowledge Differences
    Stakeholders must recognize the differences between making a business case for data governance, and making one for a traditional technology project.  Many of these differences revolve around the non-conventional topics of business process, change management, business benefit, and holistic impact.  Understanding the differences will help shape your approach.
  2. Define and Clarify
    Take the time to describe what data governance is and what it means to your association.  A simple definition and several examples, together with an explanation of its purpose will go a long way toward getting everyone on the same page. Fine-tuning the characterization of this term and its intent will help align the staff and advance the dialogue with business leadership.  Make sure the purpose of the data governance initiative is documented.
  3. It’s All in the Name
    What you call something can determine how people perceive and respond to it – and whether they support it.  The term ‘data governance’ makes perfect sense to many in the information management space, but may not resonate with business leaders and executives.  For some, the word “data” represents a tactical responsibility of IT, while governance signifies bureaucracy. Neither of these invokes the sense that it is a cross-functional management activity.  You may want to consider alternate terms that better reflect the overall objective and are more likely to gain acceptance, such as "information asset management".
  4. Set Expectations
    Identify short- and long-term expectations for the data governance program at both a business and technical level.  People involved in day-to-day information management activities have very different expectations than business leadership.  Examine realistic expectations that will satisfy both decision-makers and other stakeholders, such as staff and volunteer leadership.
  5. Value Proposition
    Determine whether the value proposition for the program will be based on a single project, the association as a whole, or somewhere in between.  While a specific project is important, a business case for data governance is more compelling when it addresses the impact across an entire data domain and enterprise.
  6. Interview the Business
    Determine whether the creation of the business case should involve one-on-one interviews with a representative from each of your association's different departments.  This is where much of the business value can be found.
  7. People to Influence
    Draft a list of individuals and groups that will need to be convinced in order to secure funding and support for the data governance program.  Know who to persuade and why.  Never assume that people, even those involved in daily data activities, understand the benefits.
  8. Outside Assistance
    Decide whether the organization will enlist the assistance of a third party.  Doing so can add value in a number of ways:
    • Provide industry experience and expertise
    • Overcome the common stigma of being too close to the situation
    • Deliver the message to business leadership from an objective, non-partisan source
  9. What does Success Look Like?
    Establish the initial success criteria for the program.  The organization should know whether or not the program has been successful – you can’t manage what you can’t track.
  10. High-level Project Plan
    Establish an initial project plan with timelines to help identify and track activities and milestones.

While data governance may not be quite as exciting as data visualization, it is essential in order to maintain and leverage one of your association’s most valuable assets – your data. Initiating and executing a data governance program ensures that your organization and your customers will be served at optimal levels.

Topics: Data Quality Management

Jasmin Ritchie

Written by Jasmin Ritchie