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I met recently with a customer CIO who had been advocating data governance to his executive management team.  The CEO and the CFO shot him down because they did not see it as a priority.  One quarter later, that same management team met to review their sales pipeline.  A sales operations analyst showed a report that calculated amount of time spent by sales reps on opportunities that were won, lost, or tagged eventually as "no opportunity."  The report raised some concerns in that far more time was spent by sales reps in deals that were lost and/or eventually "no op'd."  More alarming, however, was that the data did not appear consistent to several other executives tracking their own reports on close rates and win rates.  Apparently, there were no consistent definitions of what an "opportunity" was, or what a "closed" deal was, or what a "win" was.  The cost of not having agreed upon, meaningful definitions was that the team had no idea if their sales reps were focused properly.  Directly on the heels of that argument, the CMO got up to present and proceeded to highlight all sorts of issues with the marketing lead database that would require unbudgeted spend in order to correct.  

All the while, the CIO was sitting in the meeting completely speechless that these executives could not appreciate the value of data governance.

This anecdote highlights the value of the tools available on this site.  If you feel like you are the lone voice in the wilderness regarding the importance of Data Governance, use these tools to help your co-workers understand.

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This is a great example of how those that "get" data governance are often challenged when trying to educate and evangelize to business leadership.   What I would have recommended to this CIO is to "back in" to the data governance conversation.  

How much more powerful would it have been if the CIO in his initial presentations to the CEO and CFO didn't mention data governance at all - but instead highlighted the costs and risks associated with the failing opportunity management process within their organization?  Once he or she "hooked them" by getting agreement that it had a significant business impact and therefore it should be a priority to address the issue, a mitigation strategy could then include data governance as the foundation.    

Obviously easier said than done, but my approach has always been to remind DG evangelists that data governance (and MDM and data quality, etc) are not about the data -  it's about the processes, decisions and interactions that the data enables for the business.

Anyone else have similar experiences to share?

We have the same experiences. And we've learned the hard way that not everyone gets it. I think it because we assume that everyone understands what 'governance' means, so it should be easy for people to apply the concept of governance to data. Also too, how many leaders ask you to sum it up in a couple of bullets...sigh...

What's difficult I think is that data governance can't easily be visualized. Once we take the time to sit with people and talk about their processes and how much time they waste on re-active work to solve problems it becomes a matter of talking about it in language that resonates with them.

So rather than talk about Governance, we talk about 'aligned decision making', 'data integrity accountabilities' and 'deliberately designed processes for making changes' then it becomes relevant to them.

Great discussion!

I agree with Robert. Implementing data governance is tough because it involves change and requires cross-functional collaboration across the enterprise. I'd recommend quantifying the opportunity or cost/risk to an enterprise to secure executive buy-in for a strategic initiative that could involve a governance component. Benchmarks and case studies can also help make the case for change and secure support.

My experience has been that executives respond best when you present them facts and quantified business impact. And that may not be enough. You might need to articulate whats in it for them specifically.

I agree with Jill's comments there are a lot of folks (execs included) that agree with the general need for data governance, but can't seem to grasp what it takes to get there or visualize it (as Jill puts it).  There are also a lot of people that agree with the concept, but when asked to participate they feel it is too difficult or don't have the time.

You really have to show how it affects them and their processes in order to show true impact.  Once we can show that true value can be added, people will start trusting and wanting to be involved more and more.

Cataclysmic events drive action, albeit, a reaction.
Fortunately for the company, the lack of data integrity did not lead to a compliance violation, or a defective product.

The real question is how will the CIO leverage this event to build a C-Suite coalition to invest in and implement a Data Management strategic roadmap.

Any chance you can share the Post Mortem and where the customer is today with Data Management?

Going back a few years, a client of mine (the Vice-President of a Saudi Arabian bank) expressed it in an effective (if somewhat colourful) analogy to the bank's board:

"Data Quality is like a public toilet. We all want to use it, but no-one wants to clean it."

Data Governance programme unanimously approved...

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