Salesforce Best Practices: Establishing Your Data Governance & Data Stewardship Framework
As the most widely used—and the most robust—customer relationship management (CRM) platform on the market, Salesforce has evolved far beyond just a prospect- and customer-facing system. Nearly two-thirds of executives say that they rely on CRM data for every stage of the customer lifecycle, not just sales, marketing, and support. From website visits to customer org charts, you can use Salesforce to create a trusted 360-degree view of your customers.
This powerful view is what drives customer relationships, improves the customer experience, and allows your organization to glean more actionable insights to guide your business strategy. However, there’s a major hurdle your enterprise may face in realizing the full breadth of Salesforce’s capabilities: unreliable, incomplete, and poorly integrated data. These data issues, if present in your Salesforce instance, will inhibit your enterprise from ever realizing that golden customer record.
So, how can you best position your organization to get ahead of these potential pitfalls? One solution to solving these challenges is to implement a data governance plan that includes a resilient data stewardship framework within the platform.
Defining Data Governance vs. Data Stewardship
Data governance and data stewardship are often confused with one another. Though the terms are related, there are distinct differences.
Data governance is a collection of clearly defined policies, procedures, standards, processes, roles, and responsibilities that ensures the effective and efficient use of data in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. Data governance policies and procedures ensure that the combination of data across clouds, objects, and profiles can be leveraged optimally for users.
In this era of digital transformation, platforms like Salesforce are likely consuming massive amounts of data from other platforms across an enterprise’s tech stack or sharing data with those platforms. In order to realize the true power of the data that Salesforce generates and consumes, it’s essential to have clear policies and procedures related to object creation, field values, business processes, and rules within the platform. Your governance strategy dictates how your unique instance is designed and architected to accommodate that framework.
Data stewardship is the oversight and management of an organization’s data assets. Data stewards are responsible for implementing the tactical aspects of a data governance plan. If data governance consists of the policies and procedures for how data is captured and managed, it’s the data stewards that are responsible for the active policing of those rules and procedures.
For organizations that use Salesforce, data stewards ensure that the front-line user enters data correctly so that the business can leverage it inside the platform for tasks that can range from forecasting, to reporting and advanced analytics, to investment strategy planning. They work hands-on with the data, which they can quickly explore, manage, and correct. The Salesforce admin is usually tasked with data stewardship responsibilities until the complexity and size of the org would benefit from dedicated stewards for specific data assets within the myriad Salesforce clouds that are being leveraged by the enterprise.
Why Salesforce Data Governance and Stewardship Matters
An effective data governance plan with a data stewardship framework enables you to mitigate risk, empower people with the right data at the right time, and drive business growth.
Improve Data Quality
As with any system, the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies to Salesforce. No matter how well-designed, user-friendly, and integrated your Salesforce org is, its output is dependent on the quality of the data entered or ingested into the system. Without a data steward maintaining data integrity throughout its lifecycle, user adoption suffers, and the value of your Salesforce investment declines dramatically.
Strategize and Compete More Effectively
Improving operational effectiveness, decision-making, strategy development, and execution all depend on data, more specifically, data quality. Data is key to identifying and exploiting competitive and comparative advantages. Having a well-defined data strategy enables a strong data governance framework that empowers data stewards and positively impacts everyone in the enterprise, from executives to frontline staff, with the information they need to plan and act more effectively.
Protect Your Reputation and Brand Image
Poor data governance and data stewardship can diminish trust in the data utilized in your analytics’ teams and tools, leading to internal friction and lost productivity. It can also cause reputational risk in the eyes of your customers, partners, and vendors who need assurance that you can maintain data accuracy and privacy. Effective data governance and stewardship protect you from these risks.
The Challenges of Creating an Effective Data Governance and Data Stewardship Framework
Because of the power and flexibility of the platform, Salesforce data stewards can have a significant impact on the end-user experience without having to code. For example, a single admin can implement and police a small to medium-sized enterprise’s data governance and management strategy by “clicks” and straightforward platform configuration.
Plus, your Salesforce platform is likely touched by a plethora of your enterprise’s resources, from technical to functional. Their approaches to managing data, documenting their work, and communicating with one another may differ. These issues further highlight the need to have a clearly articulated and understood data management strategy that includes strict governance protocols that are consistently policed.
Data volume is another challenge since Salesforce holds an enormous amount of information. Addressing these concerns only grows more important as you collect and create larger volumes of data over time, increasing the complexity of organizing, managing, and utilizing information. The more data you have, the more important it is to implement a modern approach to data strategy and governance.
Best Practices for Establishing a Salesforce Data Stewardship Framework within Your Data Governance Model
A solid data governance framework guides your data stewardship practices and sets you up for Salesforce success. With the unique challenges and capabilities of Salesforce in mind, here are some best practices to consider as you develop your data stewardship framework:
1. Err on the Side of Strict Data Governance
Ensure Salesforce users are only seeing the records they need to see. Leverage profiles, roles, and permission sets to mitigate oversharing. Utilize validation rules, minimize the use of free-form text fields, and leverage other field types to ensure that users are entering data in a consistent manner.
2. Consider How Data Will Be Used in the Future
Architect and design your Salesforce solution to accommodate for how data will be used in the short and long term. For example, adding validation rules to keep erroneous data out will help make a standard data model that allows an admin to act as a first-line data steward.
3. Optimize Your Data Model
Ensure data stewards are well versed in their understanding of the relationships between objects used across your Salesforce clouds. Set up a data model that can cleanly organize data so that it’s easy to sort and analyze down the line.
4. Only Keep the Fields You Need
Consistently assess field usage across objects and clouds. If fields aren’t being used or don’t need to be there, remove them.
5. Ensure Leadership Awareness and Alignment
When leaders buy into the overarching data strategy, data governance rules and policies, it helps increase adoption and adherence to your governance strategy.
6. Consider the Data Lifecycle
To prevent the endless cycle of “garbage in, garbage out,” it’s important to maintain data quality throughout its lifecycle. So, if you’re integrating data, apply governance as far upstream as possible.
7. Build Quality Checks into Your Processes
Include policies and procedures around consistent data checks and updates.
8. Staffing Considerations
How you assign data stewardship tasks will depend on the size of your organization and your budget. Here are some general rules of thumb to consider as you plan for staffing:
- If your Salesforce environment isn’t complex, has fewer than 25 users, and is only using one cloud (as an example), you likely don’t need a dedicated data steward. Your admin and the users of the platform can act in this capacity.
- If you have a highly complex Salesforce org, with multiple clouds, multiple business units, and multiple integration points, you can and should have data stewards allocated to those specific domains/assets.
- All users of the platform should play a role in data stewardship. With the right governance strategy in place, everyone knows what data should be captured, and how. Each individual user should be tangentially accountable for ensuring they’re stewarding the data they enter to the best of their ability.
Are You Confident in Your Salesforce Data Governance and Stewardship Framework?
It’s common for companies to struggle with Salesforce implementation, data quality, manual processes, inadequate reporting, and a lack of trust in their data. Also, mergers and acquisitions and new software implementations can cause (and expose) data quality gaps. You may want to consider working with a Salesforce partner if you struggle with these challenges or want to avoid these pitfalls:
- Data quality, consistency, and discoverability issues
- Inability to make data-driven decisions due to unreliable data
- Users keeping data outside of the Salesforce platform due to inefficient processes or data privacy/security concerns
- Inability to effectively leverage Salesforce native advanced analytics capabilities (Einstein) due to poor data quality
- Disparate, siloed, or duplicate data
- Lack of a 360-degree view of customers, products, and employees
The right Salesforce partner can change the way you use the platform. If the partner has experience both inside and outside Salesforce, they can design a holistic modern data governance and management solution that is absorbed into your Salesforce platform.
Case Study: Achieving Regulatory Compliance with Salesforce
Meeting new regulatory requirements is always a challenge, especially at large organizations with legacy systems and processes. When one of the country’s largest banking institutions needed to update its processes in order to continue to be compliant with new regulations, it turned to Kenway. Our Salesforce subject matter experts recognized that Salesforce could be used to solve the problem.
We configured custom objects and workflows to automate the benchmarking analysis process and incorporated data governance measures into these processes to ensure that data was entered completely and accurately. With the combination of new processes backed by a solid data governance plan, the firm was able to increase productivity and reduce costs.
To learn more about how Kenway helped this firm leverage Salesforce for this critical project, read the case study here.
Make Salesforce Work Better for You
At Kenway, we help you leverage the full capabilities of Salesforce by considering data strategy, management, governance, and stewardship holistically across your technology ecosystem. Whether we are working solely on a Salesforce engagement or on a broader technology initiative, these processes are integrated into every project.
If you want to seize the full range of opportunities Salesforce offers, and get rid of data quality, integration, and accessibility issues once and for all, reach out to our experts.
Data Stewardship Framework FAQs
What is stewardship in data governance?
Stewardship is the tactical work of implementing a data governance plan. Data stewards are responsible for the day-to-day oversight and management of a company’s data assets.
Why is data stewardship important?
Data stewardship is an important part of your organization’s data governance plan. It also directly impacts data quality and accessibility. Businesses need consistent access to high-quality data in order to plan and strategize more effectively, improve the customer experience, and stand out from the competition. Data stewards ensure that the volume of data businesses manage is functional and available to meet these needs.
What makes a good data steward?
A good data steward should have technical and functional expertise with the platform(s) that they oversee. They should be able to:
- Understand the relevant data model
- Know the processes or rules that affect their domain
- Understand data flows in or out of the domain they’re responsible for
- Have a high-level awareness of the data sources feeding their assigned platform
- Police and communicate the data governance policies to end users
What is a data stewardship model?
A data stewardship model is a framework outlining practices and policies for maintaining data integrity and accessibility. It is informed by the policies, procedures, and role assignments established by a company’s data governance framework.