How to Fix the Problem with Traditional Data Governance

Video produced by Steve Nathans-Kelly

At Data Summit Connect Fall 2020, Pariveda Solutions' Ryan Gross explained how a new and innovative approach to data governance addresses traditional data governance issues.

The Problem with Data Governance

According to Gross, data governance in most organizations requires at this point, the appointed position of a chief data officer who owns the overall strategy around governing, managing, and potentially valuing the data assets in your organization. "And that chief data officer works with a set of data stewards who are aligned to the people in the business that are actually delivering on the value to make sure that they understand which data is most important." And then, underneath them, there is a set of data stewards and data custodians who are  working on improving the data's capability to meet key guideposts—improving the data quality, ensuring data is available and potentially cataloged.

When you fast-forward, as people have gone through this cycle, four or five times of spinning this up, what this looks like in many places in 2020 is pretty much the same, said Gross. "There are just more data stewards and more business unit leads being involved in the process. The whole thing has become very heavy and cumbersome and the headcount has gone up, and the amount of time that these people spend in meetings has gone up dramatically because, ultimately once you start to hit a certain point of scale, manual processes add overhead that is just communication and management layers that aren't really adding value. So, in reality, when you look at one of the key measures, and we could say this around most of the others as well, it stayed somewhat flat over time."

It is clear, and almost everyone agrees, that this is a problem and it needs to be addressed in order for organizations to be able to start to leverage data at scale, said Gross. "Even those that are out there as leaders right now—the social media companies and tech giants—actually still struggle with this. And you're, starting to see it. The overall techlash term that you're hearing around people being fed up with the way that their data is not necessarily being governed and managed for consistent use is starting to come back to bite those companies."

Reframing the Problem

As a result, given that we have what seems to be a systemic problem, it really means that we need to start to think about a more systemic change in order to fix it, said Gross. "We don't need to just worry about the events or the patterns and trends that I'm talking about here. But ultimately we have to go all the way to the bottom of the iceberg and look at the mental models that drive people into these ways of thinking around manual governance, application councils and committees, stewards who are outside the process of actually delivering the analytics that drive value. In other words, maybe we need to reframe the whole problem."

Gross cited a book called Frame Innovation by Keys Dorst that showcased how reframing problems can lead to interesting solutions. "He was looking at this and societal problems like how do you manage crime in urban areas where many people are going out, or how do you manage public works of art that are often being used for protests? And it's by reframing the way that you look at those problems that you can come up with innovative new solutions to them. One of the most interesting examples is the Sydney Opera House, where people are protesting and using that public work of art as a venue for their statements that they want people to see." Instead of banning anyone from getting near the building, they encouraged more people to come in, which took away people's ability to set up these types of protest displays alongside what was supposed to be there. So, thinking about it in a new way gave them a new way to solve the problem."

Videos of full presentations from Data Summit Connect Fall 2020, a 3-day series of data management and analytics webinars presented by DBTA and Big Data Quarterly, are also now available for on-demand viewing on the DBTA YouTube channel.

We will resume Data Summit, our annual in-person conference, in 2021—May 24–26—at the Hyatt Regency Boston.