Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Overcoming Objections to a Data Governance Program

You’ve created a wonderful proposal for a comprehensive data governance program. You’ve brought it up to management, but the chiefs tell you there’s just no budget for data governance. Now what?

The best thing you can do it to keep at it. It often takes time to win the hearts and minds of your company. You know that any money spent on data governance will usually come back with multipliers. It just may take some time for others to get on board. Be patient and continue to promote your quest.

Here are some ideas for thinking about your next steps for your data governance program:

Corporate Revenue
Today, companies manage spending tightly, looking at the expenses and revenue each fiscal quarter and each month to optimize the all-important operating income (revenue minus expenses equals operating income). If sales and revenue are weak, management gets miserly. On the other hand, if revenue is high and expenses are low, your high-ROI proposal will have a better chance for approval.

For many people, this corporate reality is hard to deal with. Logical thinkers would suggest that if something is broken, it should be fixed, no matter how well the sales team is performing. The people who run your business have their first priorities set on stockholder value. You too should pay attention to your company’s sales figures as they are announced each quarter. If your company has a quarterly revenue call, use it to strike when the environment for spending is right.

Cheap Wins
If there is no money to spend on information quality, there still may be potential for information quality wins for you to exploit. For example, let’s say you were to profile or make some SQL queries into your company’s supply chain system database and you found a part that has a near duplicate. So, part number “21-998 Condenser” and part number “2-1-998 Cndsr” exist as duplicated parts in your supply chain.

After verifying the fairly obvious duplicate, you can ask your friend on the procurement side how much it costs to store and hold these condensers in inventory. Then use some guerilla marketing techniques to extol the virtues of data governance. After all, if you could find this with just SQL queries, consider how much you could find with a data discovery/profiling tool. Better yet, consider how much you could find with a company-wide initiative.  In a previous blog post, I referred to this as the low-hanging fruit.

Case Studies
Case studies are a great way to spread the word about data governance. They usually contain real-world examples, often of your competitors, who are finding gold with better attention to information quality. Vendors in the data governance space will have case studies on their websites, or you can get unpublished studies by asking your sales representative.

Consider that built-in desire of your company to be competitive, and keep your Google searches and alerts tuned to what data management projects are underway at your competitors.

Analysts are another valuable source for proving your point about the virtues of data governance. Your boss may have installed his own custom spam filter against your cajoling on data governance. But he doesn’t have to take your word for it; he can listen to an industry expert.

If you own a subscription to an analyst firm, use it to sell the power of data governance. Analysts offer telephone consultations, reports and webinars to clients. These offerings may be useful to sway your team.  If you are not a client of these firms, go to the vendors. If there is a crucial report, they will often license it to offer on their website for download, particularly if it speaks well about their solution.

Data Governance Expert Sessions
This technique also falls within the category of “don’t just take my word for it.” You can find a data governance workshop from many vendors to assist your organization with developing your data quality strategies. Often conducted for a group, the session leader interacts with a group of your choosing and presents the potential for improving the efficiency of your business with data governance. As the meeting leader, you would invite both technologists and business users. Include those who are skeptical of the value a data-quality program will bring to their company; a third-party opinion may sway them. The cost is usually reasonable and it can help the group understand and share key concepts of data governance.

Guerrilla Marketing
Why not start your own personal crusade, your own marketing initiative to drive home the power of information quality? In my previous installment of the data governance blog, I offer graphics for use in your signature file to drive home the importance of IQ to your organization. Use the power of a newsletter, blog, or e-mail signature to get your message across.

Excerpt from Steve Sarsfield's book "The Data Governance Imperative"


Dylan Jones said...

Great post Steve.

I think you're bang on the money, data governance is quite different to some of the local DQ initiatives one sees where departmental politics means you can force through improvements. If you don't understand the drivers at board level it can scupper any momentum.

I always try and advocate a "self-funding" approach. Create a small, low-cost pilot that generates profits and use those profits to engineer bigger programs which are also self-funding.

I've spoken to a number of senior managers who are very sceptical about data quality, and rightly so, as many projects fail to live up to expectations.

Came across a great post about Zic Ziglar that stated: "Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust”

We may feel that data governance and data quality tick all those criteria but if we can't justify each point then we may be in trouble.

What your post does is give the practitioner tools to combat each one of those objections.

(I've touched on some similar themes here: "How to create a compelling data quality business case" http://bit.ly/14CAvT )

Steve Sarsfield said...

I didn't know you were a Zig Ziglar fan too, Dylan. It does always seem to come down to need, money, urgency, and trust. As the data governance champion, that's what you have to build.

Anonymous said...

One of our prime concerns is with data lineage, that is the capability to trace back each data element to the source, including any treatments, rules or overrides applied. This is an area of governance that does not generally appear in the framework. From my experience, most people believe that lineage is a byproduct of DQ (ie an IT solution) whereas reality has proven it to be more a business outcome.

Steve Sarsfield said...

Thanks for the comment, Anon. I've thought about it and I'm not going to attempt to tackle data lineage in a comment. However, it is an interesting topic. Perhaps it's one that the community we should take on in blog posts.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own and don't necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer. The material written here is copyright (c) 2010 by Steve Sarsfield. To request permission to reuse, please e-mail me.