How Data Governance Programs fail even before they start


You may see several articles that talk about Data Governance Program failure; however, I will have a different approach here to capture mistakes that are made when the program is in proposing phase. These mistakes make the program fail even before it starts. We can identify these mistakes at a very early stage of our initial planning. Therefore, we will be aware if we make some mistakes that may cause to program fail. Therefore, it is going to be our choice to start or not to start a Data Governance program that we already know will fail.

Before start to talk about how and why Data Governance programs fails, I would like to summarize what exactly data governance is; Data management is the exercise of guidance over the management of data assets and the performance of data functions. Data governance refers to the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data employed in an enterprise. A sound data governance program includes a governing body or office(s), a defined set of procedures, and a plan to execute those procedures. In practical terms, that means putting personnel, policies, procedures, and organizational structures in place to make data accurate, consistent, secure, and available to accomplish organization's mission. It takes on special importance because of organization's responsibilities, expectations and the legal requirements it must fulfill.

Effective data governance makes organizations more efficient by saving money, allowing re-use of data, and supporting enterprise analytics. However, data governance requires more than just a few members of the IT staff with a project plan. It requires participation and commitment of IT and business management, as well as senior-level executive sponsorship and active consultation with stakeholders of interest. The correctly built data governance program enables organization to effectively manage data assets due to assigned responsibilities and rules of the engagement. If your understanding does not match the description above than you are not planning to have a Data Governance work but assuming to have some kind premature data work done which will cause your executives loose their belief in the  program and will not let you to attempt this again for a long time. Therefore, I suggest you to stop right now and first read these items below before carrying out these mistakes.

I divided these reasons that cause failure to eight sections, so we will talk each one separately and will have a summary. Here is the most known reasons:
  1. Not exactly believing Data Governance will help and resolve our data problems

    Considering it is a nice work to have done but not important. Underestimating and under-judging the value of Data Governance and the work that needs to be done by team. Not devoting adequate effort to help stakeholders understand how serious and valuable the Data Governance is. How big value will be gained when the task is done and how much will be lost if we fail.

  2. Planning a Data Governance program without having full support and understanding from executive management is a big mistake.

    If you even think of planning a Data Governance program without getting full support and understanding from executive management, you have a big potential of failure of your Data Governance program. It is a dead baby in your belly from now on. Because in any case executive management can withdraw their support and cancel a program that they don't really believe. Have the executive management really understand and believe that the value is bigger than the cost. Do not make the executive management to focus on the cost, instead of what they will gain. This is the key, if cost becomes more important then the value that will be added then you have already failed, I suggest you to not to start this program.

  3. Paying more attention and spending more effort on how to cut from the resources, budget and minimizing the scope and the deliverables rather than focusing on the success of the Data Governance project.

    We know some organizations try to get services and products cheaper than proposed to them however; this is one of the main reasons of the failure of the Data Governance programs. Because this organization does not see the value that they will gain and does not focus on succession just at the beginning and instead they focus on spending less and getting less and this work for them. What happens is that they build some premature programs touching data here and there but not governing, not fixing, not improving at all. Instead, since these programs not well budgeted and planned, instead of gaining control they create chaotic solutions. New environment becomes worse than before because now there are new departments like an non-functional Data Governance offices, stewardships who do not know what to do, and thousands of pages unorganized documents, with tools installed but not in use, because no one knows what to do with them.

  4. Trying to minimize the scope of the Data Governance to save some money and having some unrealistic small phase ideas.

    Disregarding that the Data Governance is one solid program at the beginning; you should not divide it to unrealistic pieces and should not think this is a try-and-see program. Then you are dividing a solid piece at the beginning and loosing the actual focus. Instead, program can be divided in to solid phases, which will help each phase to cover end-to-end approaches then for each phase you can move to more advanced implementation of program rather than having premature pieces done, and later having another premature piece and try to integrate these works together. Do not do this at the beginning, plan your phase end-to-end and deliver it, you can have a pilot scope for data re-architecting, data improvement part with choosing smaller database domains but do not shave your Data Governance scope. Follow program pattern always as initial planning, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling phases, do not skip any of these steps if you do not want to plan a program born prematurely at the beginning.

  5. Team Resources are everything, starting a data governance program with ineligible team means failure is coming soon.

    Some organizations may thing that they can do this by getting consultancy from a SME and do the rest themselves. It sounds good, is it not? However, real world is not that simple. First, if an organization requires Data Governance program and does not have the right resources, this is a good reason to fail. Do not overestimate your own resources and reject getting help from professionals. A Data Governance program requires set of expertise in wide area of data, management, politics and software development life cycle as well as needs heavy loaded work of tasks that also requires teamwork of professionals. Start with a professional team and get as much as know-how transferred to your team in a suitable time. Usually the first phase is similar to your high school graduation and the second is your college degree, do not miss and skip these phases.

  6. Do not put yourself in a position like "I am client and I want it this way". Because this is the one of the biggest mistake, you can do for a Data Governance program.

    A Data Governance program is not a playground; do not behave as you are in one. It is dangerous to move to any direction as you wish, if experts warning you this will cause a program failure. Are you ready to take the responsibility of couple of hundred thousands of dollars wasted, and nothing earned, and loosing the support of the executive management that will cause burying of the Data Governance program for eternity? You may thing the budget is too much and let us cut it down from few millions to five hundred thousand bucks. Do you really think you save the money or did you just threw half a million to trash? So, be careful most of this kind of behavior ends with disappointment, loss and frustration. Moreover, a hiding cost will come through and will make you pay more than the number estimated at the beginning.

  7. Do not discard Roadmap, metrics, targets that provided to you by experts.

    Sometimes organizations think they can reshape the roadmap, metrics and change targets and deliverables so that they can save money. This is seriously dangerous, because it may cause a chaotic environment and may require you to pay additional cost to the experts to govern your ungoverned Data Governance program. So do not do this, be careful at the beginning so you will not have any surprise costs later.

  8. Losing momentum and recognizing Data Governance as a software project. Data Governance programs are not projects, projects ends and programs not.

    Data Governance programs need to be alive for organization's whole life term. To make this happen you should have your momentum increased, and understand clearly that Data Governance requires a lifecycle attention starting from the day one.
Finally, I would like to see as much as Data Governance programs success, to do reach this target we should follow right patterns and right roadmap for a real life Data Governance program without skipping necessary steps, planning shortcuts and not creating a path that will cause our failure. Hope my article will help some organizations to understand what they are going to face if they ignore valid rules of this program. Happy governing!