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As heavy, pre-defined processes lumbered under their own weight, new methodologies have much more cache: Agile. Lean. They even sound aspirational. Of course we all want to be agile. And we all want to be lean.

However, you can get carried away. Lots of times, businesses use Agile or Lean to mean no documentation. True, Agile and Lean do not support 500-page up-front specifications. But please don’t take that to mean documentation is worthless.

The Information DifferenceAndy Hayler, CEO of The Information Difference, in his recent Data Governance Benchmarking report, highlighted common ways that companies sabotage their data governance program (statistically significant correlation with failure):

  • Don’t bother with a mission statement – everyone understands what you are trying to do.
  • No need for a documented dispute resolution process – we all know each other pretty well.
  • No need to control access to business data – we trust our staff.
  • No business risk register – we’ll figure out a response to a crisis in real time.
  • Don’t bother with data models – no-one understands them 
  • Business processes need to be carried out, not documented.
  • Data quality assessments are a waste of time 
  • No need for a business case – we have a senior sponsor.
  • No need to put DG in people’s tasks and targets – they’ll do the right thing.
  • No training required – they’ll pick it up on the job.
  • Don’t bother to tell anyone about the DG program – it is obvious.

 Notice the trend? The majority of those items deal with assumptions and a failure to document:

  • Mission
  • Access
  • Models
  • Risk register
  • Business case
  • Training
  • Goals/Incentives

Darth VaderIt’s temping, right? When you start with a small group of like-minded people, and have loads of critical information issues to tackle, WHY would you spend time writing down that everyone already knows? Do not listen to The Dark Side, Young Luke.

Why? For starters, try answering these questions.

  • Does your group have complete visibility of how information impacts your business processes? ALL the critical business processes?
  • Is your group sufficiently sized, so you see no need to expand your resourcing in the future?
  • Is your group able to completely lock down and control every critical element of information themselves?
  • Do executive sponsors tend to stay in the same position for 10+ years? Do they maintain focus on areas that are working seamlessly?
  • Do you have great alignment and collaboration across BI and business process engineering?
  • Does your division always hit the stretch quotas assigned to them?

If you are answering No to these questions, relax. You are normal. There, I said it.

However, answering No to these questions also means that you have to expect change, expect growth, and expect collaboration. So be prepared. Use the key advantage that we discussed earlier—a small group of like-minded people—to get these done. What you could do now in a series of small, collaborative meetings with like-minded people will take exponentially longer if you wait until your governance effort spreads. Follow Andy Hayler’s advice and document your mission and business case, in partnership with your executive sponsor. Then tackle security and access policies, along with data models that everyone can agree to. Finish your documentation plan by documenting a quick training plan, and by providing short-and-sweet goals and incentives that your executive sponsor can push into performance plans.  And don’t forget—as you are executing, maintain that documented risk register.

Do not listen to The Dark Side, Young Luke. Document, however lightly. Then your Information Governance Group can rise above Normal to Jedi!

For more details, listen to the TDWI replay of Andy Hayler’s report.

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  1. Augusto Cristicini
    Balance between the dark and light side so you can see clearly but we don’t want to be blinded by bright lights so much that we trip every time we try to do something.
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