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Q&A after our data governance webinar (3/3)

A few weeks ago Nicola Askham (The Data Governance Coach) and I delivered a webinar on Automating Data Governance. For those you who might have missed the live event check out the replay.     

If you watch the replay you’ll observe that it’s much more of a conversation about data governance, it’s challenges and ways to scale. And of course having Nicola on the webinar was great. She’s passionate about data governance and has many anecdotes/solutions on common problems you will encounter.

There were several questions that we couldn’t get to on the webinar and over the past couple of weeks several more have come across via email. We’ve decided to use these blog posts to follow up on those questions.  (To ask questions of your own please feel free to contact us).

Today’s question:

How would you standardize data definitions and usage for data elements when different parts of the company uses and defines it differently  

Nicola Askham writes:  

Another great question and one that I need to counter with a question of my own: do you really need standardized data definitions?

Now often the answer is indeed yes, but it is important to be aware that sometimes it isn't necessary to achieve standardized data definitions.  What is often more important, especially in the early days of a data governance initiative, is to identify when people have different data definitions and usage for the same data elements.  You are then in a position to identify if this causes a problem and whether action needs to be taken to rectify the situation.   

Sometimes that action is to agree on a standard definition, but it may also be to create a new data field i.e. keep the two different definitions, but separate the underlying data.  Often in my experience it is ok for there to be different data definitions, so it is best to consider whether this is the more appropriate action as there may a need for two different data elements rather than standardizing a definition for the one which you originally thought you had.

For those instances where you decide that a standardized definition is the correct action, then I use the Data Governance Framework I have implemented or am putting in place to deal with it.  Firstly I get agreement for who the Data Owner or Owners are for the existing definitions and use your Data Governance Forum to identify who the other stakeholders would be (i.e. the people who capture and use that data).  I then arrange a short meeting to facilitate a discussion between them to agree a new standardized definition.   

The good news is that you do not need a whole raft of meetings.  Once you have facilitated a few, I find that everyone gets the idea and can sort it out themselves and you will only need to monitor and manage progress.  Of course you may need to facilitate where agreement cannot be reached and ultimately it can be escalated to the Data Governance Forum for a decision if absolutely necessary.   

If you'd like to learn more about data governance, data governance training and Nicola visit The Data Governance Coach.   And if you'd like to learn more about Orchestra Networks offering please visit our DG landing page.