How to Make Agile Data Governance Work

Video produced by Steve Nathans-Kelly

Jon Loyens, co-founder of, a cloud-native data catalog company, recently discussed how to build an agile data governance team and successfully kick off the governance process in this clip from his presentation at Data Summit Connect Fall 2020.

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.

The first thing you want to address when you're thinking about agile data governance is what your team is going to be, said Loyens. "What does it look like? How do we bring together the personas in one room so we can have meaningful, fast, and iterative feedback loops around the data assets that we're producing?" In a typical data supply chain, said Loyens, these rules are very fluid. The most important thing is that the stakeholders are there working together. "And we're considering at all times and in real time, all of these folks working together. When you get these folks into a room, we really encourage almost a design thinking- or an agile thinking-led philosophy and the idea of doing agile governance sprints."

To do an agile sprint, you need to think about use cases, said Loyens. "What are the use stories you want to be developed?" You need to be focused on end user business value.

"Where do you start? You start in that producer side by trying to quickly curate assets together right now, as data is produced to you need to be thinking about collaboration, releasing early, getting that peer-reviewed, done, defining and documenting in real time. You have to capture the knowledge as the work is done, because the next thing you're going to do is put it in the hands of the consumers in real time." 

After you have brought this all together, curated it into one consumable repository and documented it well, then it's time to hand it to your consumers and get them hands-on, said Loyens. Once you have them developing this idea of working insights for one specific use case, then you can measure and audit. "And you can advise and assist your consumers on what they're doing. You want to really quickly and safely enable your end users to get the job done. And this creates the kind of virtuous feedback cycle that enables you to really product-manage your data assets in a very agile governance flow." This can have a huge impact on an organization, Loyens noted.

With this approach, he stressed, you have to bring expertise and user-friendliness to bear by being inclusive and bringing all those personas together. By working through things, you can enable people to work in real time and start to break down the barriers that lead to non-reuse in the data analytics space, he said. And, by having everybody working together in real time, it is possible to build a corpus of shared knowledge without having to go in and make it be a post-hoc documentation process. "Humans do learn by doing, and as they learn by doing, by working with this stuff in real time, you really truly build the data literacy that you need to become a data-driven organization."

To watch the full Data Summit Connect Fall 2020 presentation, go to the DBTA YouTube channel.