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I have met a growing number of colleagues and customers who have achieved notable data governance related milestones and successes despite data governance ever being the original focus.  Instead, they led projects (e.g. ERP implementation/data migration, enterprise data security and compliance, etc.) which were wildly successful. 

Success breeds success, and it is not a coincidence that successful projects have team structures, tools and  best practices (not to mention credibility in the eyes of execs) that can serve as the working and proven foundation for Data Governance teams/councils.  So when I meet other customers who ask the common question:  "How should we get started?", I encourage them to look inward to the successful and productive project teams.  This often proves to be a more constructive and tangible discussion...

Data governance initiatives which evolved and grew directly from successful projects...common practice or still an infrequent/accidental occurrence?

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Excellent point Todd, this has definitely been a common occurrence in my experience.  If your organization's culture is more project- or initiative-focused, don't sell data governance as a standalone initiative.  To your point, if you can insert the best practices we associate with formalized data governance into these projects - and ultimately deliver standardized, trusted, secure data as a result - data management evangelists can be well positioned to formalize that approach next time around.   

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