January 23, 2024
Information Insight

Active Data Governance: A Verb, Not a Noun

The concept of data governance often evokes images of rigid structures, an ‘ivory tower’ of sorts, full of roadblocks and bureaucracy. However, this traditional view misses the dynamic and inclusive nature that true data governance should embody. We’ll explore why data governance should be seen as a verb – an active, ongoing, participative process – rather than a static group or entity. 

The Traditional View: Data Governance as a Noun 

Traditionally, data governance has been perceived as a noun—a specific group or department within an organization tasked with overseeing data usage and policy. This perspective leads to the creation of a siloed team seen as gatekeepers or, worse, roadblocks to data access and innovation.  

Challenges of the Noun Approach: 

  • Limited Perspective: A centralized team cannot always grasp the nuanced data needs and contexts of different departments. 
  • Resistance to Change: When viewed as an external authority, data governance can create resistance among employees who feel disempowered. 
  • Inefficiency: Relying on a small group for approvals and decisions can slow down processes and stifle creativity. 

Reimagining Data Governance as a Verb 

When we shift our perspective and view data governance as a verb, it transforms into a set of activities that involve everyone in the organization. It’s about fostering a culture where data governance is an integral part of daily activities, not an external process imposed on employees. 

Benefits of the Verb Approach: 

  • Democratization of Data: By involving everyone, data governance becomes a more democratic process, leading to better decision-making. 
  • Enhanced Data Quality: With more eyes on data, the chances of catching errors or inconsistencies increase. 
  • Increased Adoption and Follow-through: When employees feel they are part of the governance process, they are more likely to adopt and adhere to data policies. 

Practical Steps to Implement Data Governance as a Verb: 

  1. Cultural Shift: Educate and engage employees about the importance and benefits of active participation in data governance. 
  2. Empowerment: Encourage departments to take ownership of their data and understand their role in governance. 
  3. Collaboration and Communication: Create channels for continuous feedback and collaboration on data-related issues. 
  4. Training and Resources: Provide training and resources to enable employees to make informed decisions about data. 

Real-World Examples: 

  • The Cashier’s Dilemma: Consider a cashier at a home improvement store. If they view data governance as part of their role, they are more likely to collect accurate customer data, such as  phone numbers, instead of keying in 999-999-9999, understanding the information’s long-term value. 
  • The Developer’s Choice: A developer should pause before naming a new database field, seeking input to ensure it aligns with broader data governance goals, thereby preventing future confusion from myopic naming. 

A Shift in Perspective for Better Outcomes 

Viewing data governance as a verb implies a dynamic, inclusive approach that can transform how data is managed and utilized in an organization. It’s about moving away from the idea of governance as something done ‘to’ employees, to something done ‘with’ and ‘for’ them. This shift not only enhances data quality and compliance but also fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation. 

Begin by assessing your current data governance structure. Are you treating it as a noun or a verb? Engage with your teams to explore how you can transition towards a more inclusive, participatory model of data governance or contact us to work with you to transform this integral activity. 

This shift unlocks your people and the potential of your data. Reach out to us today to learn how Kenway Consulting can help you make the shift.

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