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Author's profile photo Ina Felsheim

Information Governance Tips + Tricks from a Practitioner

Maria VillarSAP lead a series of Information Governance workshops, co-sponsored by Deloitte. I’m providing a quick highlight in this blog.

The headliner for the event is the incomparable Maria Villar. Not only has Maria implemented strategic information management organizations and policies at a number of other companies, she is now the GVP for SAP’s own Customer Data Management organization. She teaches courses on information governance at E-Learning curve. And did I mention she wrote a book? She wrote a book: Managing Your Business Data: From Chaos to Confidence.

Really, an information governance program is a series of decision points, all to help you scope your efforts for the most meaningful business value. Maria level-set the room: information governance can be applied to a single project. You can start information governance with a single data type. However, keep in mind that information governance should ultimately be extended to the enterprise.

Information governance is also not one-size-fits-all. For any hope of success, it needs to be tailored to your organization. Evaluate your organization across these dimensions and adjust your strategy appropriately:

  • Culture
  • Information management maturity
  • Management sponsorship
  • Data domains and processes affected
  • Priorities

Getting started with Information Governance

So, how do you know where to start? First, we polled the room. About 25% had started an information governance program in the last year. 25% had been doing information governance for more than a year, and all of those were multi-domain. As you might expect then, about 25% has Business Data Steward roles for information governance.

In general, follow this process:

  1. Pick the information
  2. Pick the projects
  3. Pick the team
  4. Pick the management system

Maria also walked the group through the 10 questions to answer to help shape your company’s information governance program:

  • What business priority is enabled most by quality information?
  • What data fields and aspects of data are the most important to govern?
  • What are the potential benefits of governing this information?
  • Who are the stakeholders for the business priority?
  • What is the perceived and actual level of data quality?
  • What processes and systems are used to create and update information?
  • Are there standards in place today?
  • What technology is used to govern information today?
  • How can I ensure success?
  • What does great information management look like?

Problem with information governance executive sponsorship: no one wants to OWN it, but they don’t want anyone else to own it either. There are only a handful of executives who can go across Lines of Business (LOBs) and silos, which makes it hard to build information governance success. However, look for an executive sponsor who is strong and has the most to gain with information governance success. Oh, and do not use “metadata” when talking to an executive about information governance. Use KPIs and metrics instead. Once the executive sponsor is buying what you are selling, know that it is critical to get multi-year funding for your information governance program. Get that commitment up front. And how do you speak in the metrics and KPIs mentioned? You MUST establish operational goals and metrics and strongly tie them to benefits and value.

If you can, manage the Create process of information governance very robustly. In fact, this is a great place for a data quality firewall. Data quality should be a major component of any information governance program. And a good place to start with data quality is by collecting “tales of woe”. Some of these tales exist because the fit-for-purpose definition is different across different Line of Businesses (LOBs) and  business process. In one case, a customer had a CRM implementation that, without information governance, resulted in a 2-year delay! Sounds like woe to me. Other great places to look for these tales are financial restatements, regulatory issues, customer issues, and business process gaps. And keep in mind that data quality work requires business process re-engineering. In one case a customer was creating master data in 1300 different places!

One workshop customer talked about information governance and business process: Business process improvement projects are a great place to start information governance because metrics can turn RED and are then very visible. Information governance can, in fact, have great business process benefits: cross-sell/upsell, lead management, opportunity creation, days sales outstanding (DSO), and 360-degree view, among others. One good place to start is to select fields for information governance by reverse engineering reports, regulatory reports, and business process data.

Three final tips from Maria:

  • Human intervention happens to make business analytics and Business Intelligence (BI) *look* like what people expect regardless of what the data actually says.
  • Information Architecture plays a key role in enabling information governance.
  • Regulators and Auditors are also big friends of information governance. Use them!

After Maria’s session, Deloitte stepped in to talk about their experiences implementing information governance. Deloitte provided some good tips:

  • The introduction of new applications is driven by business process or executives. These large projects *start* with goals, but end up just trying to finish by a certain date.
  • You need a way to talk about information governance as a critical business enabler, including information lifecycle. Be a fact-driven organization. It turns out that this switch to being a fact-driven company requires a great plenty of organizational change management. Do not underestimate the culture change coming your way, or the effort you’ll have to apply to understand the change management forces.
  • Start with a list of all important information and then define how the system of record should behave instead of starting with technology and working your way backward.

Information Governance technology

Information governance tools (all offered by SAP) include data profiling, assessment, and metadata management with Information Steward, ETL and data quality with Data Services, Master Data Management, Extended Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Business Process Management (BPM), business rule engine with BRM, BI, and archiving and retention with ILM. One main pain point is that consumers of the information don’t understand the context of the information and use, so it was hard to enforce the information governance policies. This is a good place to automate to reduce the pain/time required of those consumers.  One customer created an internal class called Data Appreciation for Developers with great success.

Hopefully these highlights helped you shape your information governance program.

Related blogs on SAP’s Data Governance program:

Information Governance Maturity Models: Quick and Easy

Using the Program Management Office to help your initiative

OneSAP for Data Quality

Information Governance Tips + Tricks from a Practitioner

Creating a data culture in your company: What you should know about Information Governance you learned in pre-school

Walking the Walk: SAP and Information Governance

Information Steward 4.2 in Practice: How SAP’s Data Management Organization Uses Information Steward

SAP’s Internal Information Governance Program: Business Value Metrics Framework

Avoiding data corruption during mergers and acquisitions: A story from SAP’s Data Governance Organization

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      My team attempted to implement an information governance program as contractors and found it rather interesting in respect to executive sponsorship.  We had a liaison on the executive side, but it became abundantly clear that he cared not to shoulder the responsibility even though he advocated for the authorized investment.

      However, the organization sought the benefit of the program.  The problem came about as you mentioned in respect to the impact of the cultural change and funding for the duration of 24 months. The firm needed to better manage customer acquisition and retention efforts instead of having this information stored in various regional locations throughout the country.

      Your post makes me realize that the impact of cultural change is a major consideration, especially when it comes to management.