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Initiating a Governance Program – Figuring Out Where to Begin

So far in my blog series we have defined what Governance is and reviewed some things to think about to sell the need for the program in your enterprise. So, now we’ve gotten a green light, so where to begin?

To me, Governance is not unlike Enterprise Architecture in that, even without a formal program, every organization “has” an architecture, likewise, every organization “governs” their information – just might not be at the level of control, exposure or formality that it really needs to be.

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So, to find a starting point, I believe a good first step is to “assess” where things are. Ideally it would be nice to formalize this effort through a well-defined assessment initiative and treat it like a project, getting all the sponsorship, funding, resources and support you need to carry it out.

The assessment itself needs to uncover the needs and pain points of all stakeholders in the information that is to be governed. Stakeholders are anyone who affects or is affected by the information. This includes not only users who are responsible for creating and maintaining information, but those who are strictly consumers that use the information to inform their decisions. During this information gathering you will also likely get a feel for the culture of the organization and their appetite for both the level of governance to be tolerated and the willingness to change. Analysis of this information, along with a good understanding of what a successful program looks like, is used to define a vision state that represents the target to be achieved. Finally, the assessment includes a roadmap that describes what needs to be done to move from the current state to this target state.

Another approach for finding a starting point that works well if there is a fairly mature program already in place is an audit. An audit of the existing program will result in findings to be remedied. An audit such as this relies upon a good description of the program’s purpose, objectives and deployed components (decision rights, rules, processes, etc.) so that the evaluation can determine how well these items are being followed or used. Audits should identify any deficiencies and improvement opportunities in the current program based upon the program’s self-stated vision and goals.

Regardless of the approach taken for finding the starting point, it is always beneficial to create (or update the existing) program’s strategy descriptions and value statements as the first item of business after the assessment or audit. This description of the “what” of the program provides the scope and context for ensuring the program’s components (put in place or modified) are consistent with the stated strategy of the program.

So, in simple terms, find the starting point by performing an assessment or an audit (or even a combination of both) and then establish (or update) the strategy of the program. Once this is complete, you can then go about making the changes as identified. Referring to some of the practices mentioned in the previous blog entry – establishing or maturing a program can follow a fairly straightforward pattern. This will be the subject of my next post, so I hope to see you then. Thanks for taking a look and your comments are always welcome.

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Mark Steinbacher

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