Data Governance: No Single Solution - InformationWeek
Software // Information Management
10:34 AM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras

Data Governance: No Single Solution

The problem isn't a shortage of products. It's a shortage of clarity and vision.

The conversation about data governance has moved on from the why to the how stage. Bold suggestions on budgeting data governance activities are as routine as those for marketing campaigns and technology purchases. Gartner goes so far as to predict that by 2016, 20% of CIOs in regulated industries will lose their jobs for failing to implement information governance successfully -- and for that to happen, spending on that governance needs to increase five-fold.

I keynoted last month at the MDM & Data Governance Summit in New York, and if attendee questions and interest are any indication, data governance is further along than it was earlier this year, when I presented in San Francisco. Unfortunately, what's also clear is that this zest for data governance isn't yet matched by clarity of vision, or consensus on how exactly to go about doing it.

The most fundamental thing to keep in mind is that data governance -- like any form of governance -- is as much art as science. I've seen lots of definitions that cover policies, processes and people but miss out on another key dimension: politics. Like it or not, you're going to have to hone your political skills to line up initial and ongoing support for your data governance program.

And despite all of the talk, there's still confusion about what data governance is exactly. Is it about data quality? Metadata management? Taxonomies? Reference data? Master data management? Transactional data governance? Business analytics? All of those things?

[ Once you have a plan you will need people. Read Big Data Talent War: 7 Ways To Win. ]

Without a clear vision, your situation can be described by this proverb: If you don't know where you are going, any path will do. Or the related proverb: If you don't know where you are, a map is of no use.

Complicating matters is the fact that there's no single tool for data governance -- something that was evident from the vendor offerings and other presentations at the New York conference.

The problem isn't a shortage of products. There's the master data governance software from SAP. There's a suite of data quality, data analysis, RDM and MDM tools from Ataccama. There's data governance software from Collibra that, under the hood, looks more like a business semantics and metadata management tool. There's software from Titus that takes a different tack altogether, toward information security and asset management. There are confusing "data governance services" offered by the likes of data quality tool vendor Trillium Software. Ponder these products and you'll quickly realize why a "data governance solution" is more wishful thinking than something tangible.

Seeking another perspective, I reached out to Rob Karel, a former Forrester analyst and now head of product strategy for Informatica. (Disclosure: My company uses Informatica products.) Karel holds the view that data governance is a decision-making framework tied to a cross-functional organization that aims to optimize a company's return on its data assets -- so no single tool can provide the foundation.

For example, change management is core to data governance, and no single tool can help accomplish that. Yet, as Karel points out, many enabling technologies support end-to-end data governance and stewardship processes, including "data profiling tools, business glossaries, data modeling tools, data quality and MDM tools, data security tools, data integration tools, spreadsheets, email, collaboration platforms, network drives, wikis, business process management tools, BI and reporting tools, whiteboards, paper and pen, etc." Karel maintains that many of the common tasks performed by data stewards are being consolidated into a more unified stewardship user interface.

Vendors such as SAP and Ataccama have some nice governance capabilities, and Informatica's IDD (Informatica Data Director, the GUI sitting atop Informatica MDM) is improving with every iteration. Yet we're far away from having a reasonably complete solution for even the more structured components of data governance.

So where does that leave you?

In short, if you're looking to implement a data governance program, stop looking for a single, comprehensive solution. It doesn't exist. Instead, build up a portfolio of solutions, small and large, customizing your approach (and architecture) to your own organization.

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Stan Christiaens
Stan Christiaens,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/15/2013 | 2:33:56 PM
re: Data Governance: No Single Solution
Dear Rajan,

First the disclosure: I am with Collibra, one of the vendors mentioned in the article. Many software vendors like to rebrand their existing products in interesting new areas. Collibra is one of a few enterprise software companies completely focused on Data Governance: it is our bread and butter.

- Implementations vary from organization to organization: completely correct. It depends on a lot of factors: culture, maturity, tooling already in place, budget, business objectives, ... Of course there are always common factors, which is what the software focuses on.
- A Data Governance tool is not Data Governance. Just like SalesForce is not the Sales process, and just like sales people use other tools (Office, Outlook, conferencing, reporting, ...). Collibra is the SalesForce of Data Governance: software to support the stewards, which also use other tools for other purposes.
- Data Governance is not MDM, DQ, ... or any of the other data management disciplines rehashed. It is about enabling the process of data management, and the software should support that. The software takes care of, enables, supports ... a number of Data Governance people & processes, which otherwise would be a management nightmare. The software makes it practical.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

Kind regards,


Also on
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2012 | 4:08:50 PM
re: Data Governance: No Single Solution
No Single Solution for Data Governance G«Ű youG«÷re right!

A recent post by Rajan Chandras for Information Week expressed a view that there is no single tool available in the market today for Data Governance. I have to agree with that statement as well as many of the other views expressed in the post. While it is true that no vendor of technology or services have yet figured out how to provide all of the resources needed for a Data Governance program, it is possible with a little help, to figure out what you need for Data Governance program. This is where Trillium Software, my company, can help.

This is not intended to be an advertisement for our consulting practice but rather to provide clarity on what we offer to the market. I also think it is important to note that we have chosen this path in response to what our clients have requested from us and we have taken those requests and focused them on our core competencies. As a provider of Data Quality technology, our Data Governance consulting services are designed to incorporate aspects of client data quality evaluation and measurement in the deliverable. Our Data Governance consulting services provide organizations insight into the strength of the mission-critical aspects of a data governance program, evaluate and mitigate their specific program risk, and provide recommendations for growing the program as part of a comprehensive data management initiative. Some of that is accomplished your our technology and the remainder is good old conversation. We donG«÷t deliver the program, we assess where the organization is at versus where they want to be. Then we can work with our client to develop the program and if desired, advise along the journey. WeG«÷re all about getting a great start based on inspection of the data, business processes, and organizational maturity.

Our clients have told us they need our help in the maturity assessment and preparation of a Data Governance program. For these reasons we have continued to strengthen our consulting team with industry experts that have worked at the types of organizations with which we engage. Our experience with Data Governance, data quality, and other data management programs with a client facing view is, in my opinion, hard to find from many vendors today. So while there may not be one tool available for Data Governance, there is a choice available to provide clear vision, and on that point I have to disagree with Mr. Chandras.

Bernie LeCuyer
SVP, consulting & product management
Trillium Software
User Rank: Apprentice
11/6/2012 | 2:46:45 PM
re: Data Governance: No Single Solution
Rajan, not sure why you find Trillium Software data governance services "confusing." It's obvious you have not called us to obtain a clearer understanding of our take on data governance, but I would certainly invite you to do so. We'd be happy to talk.

Trillium Software takes the approach that data governance is an initiative, an ongoing method of ensuring the right business results are generated through the governance of data. It is not a product solution and does not start with IT. A data governance plan provides the framework and foundations where a business can assume ownership of the data, data policies and rules, and the business goals for the data.

It represents an opportunity for line of business leaders, data stewards, and IT to collaborate and ensure the right rules and methods are in place to ensure the data is not only accurate, but is also aligned to the business goals. Our services experts simply help companies build the steps and the plan, and gain executive buy-in, to ensure they are going in the right direction on any critical data governance initiative. In this world of regulatory compliance and government mandates, data governance processes are required - or else penalties will follow.

Michael Antonellis
Trillium Software
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