Information Technology Navigator

Tips, Advice & Insights from Technology Pros

Data Governance: 5 Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Posted by Joe Correia

Fri, Oct 02, 2015

5 Pitfalls of Data Governance

Many companies are making significant investments in information governance because they understand the critical importance of a sound information governance policy. For some in highly regulated industries like Life Sciences and Finance, however, the concept of data governance (and IT’s role in implementing it) carries even greater importance.

How successful is your organization when it comes to implementing your data governance strategy? If you’re like most companies – not so good:

  • As early as 2006, Gartner predicted 90% of organizations would fail in their first efforts toward data governance
  • According to one blogger’s claims, up to 80% of data governance projects fail
  • Symantec’s 2014 information governance survey found that while 74% of respondents had a formal, enterprise-wide governance strategy, only 1 in 5 of them said their strategy was very effective

It’s obvious that there’s plenty of room for improvement. So, what tends to go wrong with data governance and what can IT teams do about it? Here are five common pitfalls and some proven ways to avoid them.

1.  Misalignment

Too often, business units – even IT - appear to operate in a vacuum. Projects that impact the enterprise are implemented by a siloed team or division. Little thought is given to the requirements, dependencies, and changes that new initiatives can have on other departments.

How to avoid this type of failure: Successful IT projects need to be aligned with the business’ objectives. A data governance initiative touches the entire enterprise. Critical to the success of the project is getting buy-in from the various business units responsible for implementing the data governance strategy, as well as business units that will be impacted by the new changes and policies. A good idea is to include colleagues on the implementation team, from a variety of departments/divisions, to ensure the collective best interests of the enterprise are accounted for.

2.  Knowing the “why,” but not the “how” of governance

Author Anthony David Giordano makes a related point in his book, Performing Information Governance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Information Governance Work. In a segment on why information governance programs don’t work, Giordano claims one reason is that they fail to understand “how to design and coordinate enterprise information governance.” He goes on to state, “They fail due to a lack of actual performance. They simply do not integrate their information governance activities within development projects. . .”

How to avoid this type of failure: Get help translating your high-level governance needs into specific, actionable IT projects and deployments. A framework that identifies the maturity of different areas within your IT environment will help you to discover the biggest risks and prioritize projects. For example, network file shares like Email servers and SharePoint can create a minefield of problems for a data governance project. Gaining insight to the “dark data” that’s included in all this unstructured data will be a huge step forward.

3.  No metrics

Whoever said success was a journey probably didn’t have control of a lean IT budget. Your company’s on-going quest for better data governance means governance efforts will always be on-going. While that’s true, specific information governance-related IT projects must have success metrics defined at the outset.

How to avoid this type of failure: Part of solving IT challenges involves defining specific metrics, outcomes and results BEFORE you begin. There may be members of executive management and other parts of the company that assume existing programs in place are effective. Don’t be afraid to expose the truth. It’s the only way you can show the real progress being made.

4.  Lack of teamwork and coordination

Information governance spans multiple business units within an organization. Don’t let the various teams derail you because each business has a different agenda. Without a clear understanding of requirements, desired outcomes, and agreed-upon goals, you’re almost certainly going to fail to meet the business’ needs.

How to avoid this type of failure: Communication as well as a clear definition of the requirements of each business unit will go a long way to ensure your project plan gets off on the right foot. Address potential barriers, pitfalls, and anything else that may impact timelines and deliverables. You should also seek out and involve colleagues who understand how the business units are interrelated. For example, if you implement a set of compliance rules for engineers, how does that impact IT as well as other departments?

5.  No short-term wins

Large, lengthy IT projects can lose focus and be perceived as a failure after a significant time has passed. Data governance projects can fall into this same trap if there’s not enough early progress. .

How to avoid this type of failure: Early wins are crucial and must be promoted internally to maintain visibility and support. Focusing on the low-hanging fruit will enable you to accomplish smaller tasks and projects, within the larger plan, so you can create positive momentum and attention from management.

Download Data Governance for Life Sciences: An IT Survival Guide where we identify a handful of short-term, actionable IT projects that can deliver rapid results for governance. While each business is unique, avoiding these 5 common problem areas will strengthen your data governance initiative and improve your rate of success.