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Governance Is Not (Necessarily) A Bad Thing

September 10, 2012 1 comment

I was recently “enlightened” by a very experienced data warehouse practitioner that data governance is a bad thing.  For those of you aren’t familiar with the concept, Wikipedia has the following definition:

governance relates to consistent management, cohesive policies, guidance, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility. For example, managing at a corporate level might involve evolving policies on privacy, on internal investment, and on the use of data.

Now I have to admit his point.   He probably knows 10 times more about data management and processes than any data steward or data governance committee member responsible for establishing data governance policies.  When he goes to make changes to the way data is stored, processed, or used, he doesn’t have to think twice about what is best practice because he does it by nature.  The last thing he wants is some delayed process where he has to wait for approval from some data steward or committee.

I offer these observations:

  • Data governance is more for the 99 of 100 data users who don’t have his experience.  By comparison, all the security hassles we put up with as IT users is a productivity drain for those of us who are not a security risk, but we put up with it to protect corporate assets from the few who would put corporate assets at risk
  • Good data governance policies and procedures should take into account the capabilities and qualities of data professionals like him.  In other words, the policies related to him should be less restrictive than they are for the typical user.  We can do this by creating classes of users with different authorizations and privileges
  • We need his input and that of others like him into creating and maintaining a viable data governance program that serves it’s purpose without becoming another corporate bureaucracy that drains productivity
  • If it’s broke, let’s fix it.   The alternative to not having data governance is data anarchy resulting in poor decisions, bad investments, and lost opportunities.  Governance isn’t a bad thing.  Bad governance is a bad thing.  Good governance can be a good thing.

He also told me I was biased because I sell data governance consulting.   Guilty as charged.

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