In which Jill argues that the new crop of data governance clichés are all dressed up with nowhere to go. (Cliché 1)
A few years ago I read a book called Death Sentences in which author Don Watson argues that the use of empty words erodes business messages. Watson cites words like “flexible,” “value” and “bottom line” as some of the main culprits, claiming that vague language begets vague meaning. The resulting fallout can extend all the way to a company’s customer relationships.
Watson made me think about words I’ve used too frequently in my blog posts and articles. “Innovation,” “leverage,” and “synergy” are now largely absent from my vocabulary. Indeed, despite his calling out consultants as “the plague rats of the language virus” – ouch! – I liked Watson’s book.
(Okay, I was tempted to use the word “enjoyed” right there but caught myself just in time. You’re welcome.)
I was thinking about clichéd words and phrases the other day as I was teaching our Data Governance Executive Overview workshop. There’s a slide titled “Common Data Governance Aphorisms” where I take on some well-worn data governance platitudes. (“Data governance is a program,” anyone?) This started me thinking about other common data governance clichés:
- Data governance brainstorming. Don’t go into the light! (Sorry. Second cliché.) If you’re doing a brainstorming session relative to data governance, you’re probably not giving it enough rigor. Data governance requires contemplation, but it demands design. Brainstorming is the enemy of accountability and structure. It often masquerades as deliberate planning. And that’s a fast road to nowhere. (Cliché number 3.)
- Agile data governance. I get it. I do. The term “agile” grabs people’s attention, so someone’s decided to apply it to data governance, like painting racing stripes on a Volvo. After all, if we tack agile onto data governance, they’ll think it’s easy and fast. They’ll be comfortable. Except for this: data governance is hard. Data governance can be disruptive. So go ahead and Scrum away! You’ll be finished with data governance before you know it. And that’s not the goal.
- Convene a data governance council. That’s right. Data governance councils have become self-parodies. And here’s why: forming a data governance council, steering committee, or advisory board is not Job One. In fact, if you’re doing data governance the right way it’s more like Job Four or Five. Here’s a test: count the number of times people make reference to an existing or future data governance council. Then compare it to the number of times people mention “data management processes,” “workflow,” “risk mitigation,” or “decision rights.” If “data governance council” wins, you lose.
- Data governance in the cloud. ‘Nuff said. (Yup, clichés 4 and 5.)
The point is that no two data governance efforts are alike. Go to a conference and talk to vendors and consultants to get your feet wet (6), but if someone offers you a template, drop your logo-ed tote bag and run like the wind (7). That will be in the direction of cultural awareness, clear goals, and clear expectations. Otherwise it’s just the blind leading the blind.
That’s 8. So sue me. (Oops, 9.) I’m outta here. (10)
P.S.: Tweet me your favorite #businesscliche at @jilldyche.