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Governance as a Business Capability. It’s NOT About Technology


Thanks for joining me as I continue to explore Governance and what it means to an enterprise.

Up to now we’ve just laid the groundwork by focusing on terminology and concepts that I believe form the basis for understanding what a Governance Program really is (or should be) to an organization. We’ve clarified the difference between Governance and Management, talked about Data vs. Information and delineated between Strategy and Tactic. Now it’s time to put it all together and describe Governance as the Business Capability that it is.

As you may know, a large percentage of Governance Programs get their start either within, or at the behest of, the Information Technology (IT) department of an enterprise. Although appreciative that IT recognizes the value of Governance, this I believe is the start of the misunderstandings and mis-communications that occur that challenge the success of these Programs. Governance becomes viewed as an “IT problem” or an “IT responsibility”, where indeed, nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, IT is absolutely essential to the success of a Governance Program, but as a facilitator and “executer” (of tactics) of the Program’s strategies and guidance, not the owner or sponsor of the Program. Further, Governance should not be a “bolt-on” to technology initiatives (such as BI, MDM, EDW, etc.), but should be put in place outside the realm of a particular technology (even if admittedly the introduction of a technology may be the impetus for establishing the program.) The rules, controls, processes, decision rights, etc. dictated by a fully functioning Governance Program are (or should be) BEHAVIOR focused, not technology focused which supports the idea that Governance should be viewed as a Business Capability. So, although Technology is integral to the success of a program, Governance is NOT a Technology solution.

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So, let’s take a quick look at defining Governance as a Business Capability and what it means and how that impacts the approach to its implementation.

To start, I believe it is important that the organization focus on Information that is critical to the business, that is, think first about Information Governance not about Data Governance. In other words, look to the business outcomes or results you’re hoping to achieve through the applied use of information, and let that guide the priorities of the controls, processes and rights being put in place. Focus upon the business aspect and utilize business personnel as key players. Position the Program on the “business-side” of the enterprise, such as in the Marketing or Strategy groups, but ensure complete support of the IT organization to ensure the tactical (Management) needs are fully supported when it comes time to execute on the Governance Strategy.

The implication here is that the strategy should be established first, and that strategy should be defined and clarified using business terminology. The Business Motivation Model (BMM) can help in this regard (or other strategic models) by providing a framework for defining the pieces of the Governance Program. This strategy should be articulated as a response to specific business drivers (influencers, desired outcomes, etc.) to ensure that the Program will receive the support and sponsorship that it will need from business leadership for it to become a “long-lived” practice woven into the fabric of the business’s on-going operations.

Ideally the “staffing” of the program should consist of primarily business resources. The Owners, Stewards, Governance Leads and Analysts should all have a business focus, but with a good understanding of technology – at least sufficiently to be able to work and communicate with IT personnel.

Speaking of communication, one key critical success factor of any Governance Program is a robust and effective Communication practice. Governance is challenging for any enterprise, as it requires consistent and diligent application of the rules and processes put in place to govern an enterprise’s information. As indicated previously, it is focused upon people’s behavior and continual reminders, encouragements and reinforcements are essential for helping people “stay the course.” Surveys have shown that governance practitioners have discovered that 80-95% of the effort of the program revolves around communications and keeping people engaged. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative that enterprise-wide communications regarding the successes, value, participation, statuses and progress of the governance program and its initiatives are an integral part of its day-to-day operations.

So, where does one start, and are there aids and guidance in the industry to help in the establishment and execution of a Governance Program? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Information Governance has been maturing rapidly as more and more organizations are recognizing both its need and its value. Enterprises are recognizing that it is essential to their very survival to get a better handle on finding and applying information to produce desired outcomes, but are challenged by both the amount of information and the rate at which it is ever-expanding. This means getting control over the information is more critical than ever and the industry is responding. So, yes, there are helpful guidance, tools and frameworks that you may find useful in your Governance journey. My next few blog posts will discuss some of them, with my next post focusing upon some Frameworks and Practices for jump-starting your efforts.

And, as usual, thanks for continuing reading and sharing your thoughts and comments!

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Mark Steinbacher

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