Building the business case for data governance

Data governance may be the most talked about, yet elusive prize, in the data management space. It is highly coveted by people who work with data because practitioners know the mission-critical role governance plays in achieving desired data...


Data governance may be the most talked about, yet elusive prize, in the data management space. It is highly coveted by people who work with data because practitioners know the mission-critical role governance plays in achieving desired data outcomes.

At the same time, it is challenging for many organisations primarily because of their inability to demonstrate to business leadership the perceived value it brings. It fails to receive executive support and often falls to the bottom of the pile when it comes to the corporate agenda.

But why should senior executives and the Board be interested in data governance?

Data governance isn’t just about meeting regulatory requirements and ensuring compliance. A successful data governance programme opens up visibility into the organisation. The transparency that this brings can reveal previously unimagined opportunities, opening up new revenue streams, increasing customer satisfaction, reducing costs and complexity and helping to better assess risk. All of which can impact the bottom line.

There are ten basic yet extremely important steps to building a business case for data governance.

So where to start?

1. Developing the strategy
Creating the business case is as much about developing a strategy as it is about defining economic justification. Often, the case for governance will hinge on the ability to alter age-old perceptions, expose the holistic impact of data governance, and persuade business leaders to change outcomes through business process improvement.

2. Identifying the value
One of the biggest fallacies about making a business case is that the chief financial officer (CFO) will only weigh the programme’s ROI in tangible, economic terms. However, CFOs are surprisingly open to understanding the entire value a programme can bring. This is not to say that tangible benefit isn’t important, because it is. However, a business case for data governance should take into consideration a number of both tangible and realistic, yet hard to measure benefits and value that can be derived.

3. Making use of industry sources
A business case should be fortified with objective, published input from industry analysts and practitioners. Excerpts from studies, surveys, books, articles, blogs, and interviews by industry specialists can be very powerful and bring credence to a business case.

4. Assessing the data
Another very effective method involves profiling and analysing a subset of the organisation’s data. With state-of-the-art profiling tools, a company can quickly measure the severity of its data problems, and use the results in support of the business case. Introducing tangible data metrics into the business case argument can be very convincing.

5. Identifying technology requirements
Technology is an instrumental component in data governance policies and practices. For the purpose of the business case, it is important to identify the technologies that may be required, as well as the expected investment. This does not imply that a technology evaluation is in order, only that technology needs are identified up front for planning and budgeting purposes.

6. Building the concept
If the value proposition passes the eye of business leadership, the first question will be, “How do you intend to implement this programme?” In preparation for this question, stakeholders need to develop a high-level concept definition that outlines how to implement a data governance programme.

7. Establishing funding requirements
Financial support is essential to the success of data governance, and is much easier to secure if stakeholders have done a good job of defining programme value. The investment required will vary from one organisation to the next, but typically includes expenditure on programme leadership, training, technology and third party support.

8. Identify critical success factors
It is important to identify and share requirements for success, and the primary risk factors for achieving it. Success criteria can be based on a number of areas including business, project or data outcomes or indeed management by objectives. Programme risk also needs to be noted as these can impact on success. These typically include funding, control and authority, technology and alignment to overall business goals.

9. Document
The business case must be encapsulated into a document that can be distributed and referenced at any point in the process and this should be concise, factual, practical, and educational. It should include an executive summary of the project, the overall value proposition, technology and funding requirements, critical success factors, investment summary and a roadmap for future plans.

10. Present
A business case needs to be formally presented to senior business leadership and shared with all programme participants. It is mission-critical to ensure that everyone involved understands the purpose and benefit of the programme to ensure success.

And finally
Making and selling a business case for data governance requires a multi-pronged approach involving business process, technology, and industry best practices. Companies that carefully build and present their case can successfully win support - and funding - from business leadership.

Posted by Jim Orr, Information Builders’ data governance expert

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