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10 Top Tips for building an effective Data Governance Function

There is no right or wrong way to build a Data Governance function, but there are some things you can do to make it an effective one!

Here I share some tips from my own experience as Head of Data Governance for a large insurance, pensions and asset management group:

  1. Understand the business, its strategy, its data issues and strengths, and the priorities for the next 3-5 years in terms of data. Talk to as many people as you can; identify who your key stakeholders are, and understand their pain points, risks and issues and what value they want to get out of data.
  2. Consider the external environment, including new laws and regulations such as the GDPR, DPA 2018, ePrivacy Directive and where you are in terms of compliance, plus any other external factors in your specific industry.
  3. Benchmark where you are now! There are lots of industry models to use to benchmark your maturity, for example the DAMA framework or the more generic CMM Maturity model.
  4. Work out your strategy and start to build your business case. Where does the business want or need to be in the next 3-5 years and how can Data Governance enable that?
  5. Design your target operating model. There are many ways of cutting it, and at the end of the day it’s what fits best for your organisation. You could look to implement a local, central or hybrid model. You could align to service or product lines. I personally built a central governance team with consultants who aligned with each business area/proposition and Data Stewards within each of those areas. This worked well, but there are many factors to consider.
  6. Set yourself up for the long term. You may know what you need in the next few years but try to make it a structure which is scalable and flexible enough to meet the longer-term strategy. You don’t want to be going through multiple operating model restructures unnecessarily as that isn’t cost effective or pleasant for anybody. This isn’t always possible as many factors are at play, but at least keep that in your mind when you are developing your strategy, operating model and function.
  7. Build a strong business case and make sure you have built it collaboratively with your key stakeholders. You are going to need the backup and buy-in in order to get it approved and delivered!
  8. Diversity is key! When you hire your team, try to look to people with different specialisms, strengths and weaknesses, backgrounds, experience, gender, stages of career and aspirations. This creates knowledge sharing, energy, creativity, different perspectives and ways of solving issues.
  9. Work collaboratively with your team members to agree clear SMART goals which underpin your strategy. It is important this is not YOU setting all of the goals for your team. Yes – you can give direction, but it needs to feel personal and owned by the person delivering. Also agree some shared goals as well as individual goals. Get members of the team working in pairs or small working groups to learn from each other.
  10. Overall encourage autonomy, creative thinking, collaborative working and have fun! Let’s face it, we spend most of our time at work and with our colleagues so it needs to be enjoyable.

I hope some of these tips help you to build your Data Governance function effectively. Good luck!

Author: Beverley McGowan, Director and Senior Consultant at The Specialists Hub Ltd (Former Group Head of Data Governance at Royal London Group.

The Specialists Hub provide Consulting, Recruitment and Training services in Data Governance, Data Protection and Privacy, Information and Cyber Security and Governance, Risk, Compliance (GRC).

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