The book “Get Governed: Building World Class Data Governance Programs” by Morgan Templar is an excellent book for any information professional to read. In the world of information governance, data governance is only a small slice of the pie. Although there isn’t huge overlap between records management (whether traditional or electronic) and data governance there is still a lot that can be gleaned from this book for Certified Records Managers. Data governance is a more mature discipline than information governance and many of the principles in Get Governed can be applied to those working in information governance.
The similarities between data governance and information governance can be found in the definition of the disciplines. In the glossary Templar defines data governance as “The activity of defining and organizing structure around information.” As she talks more about the topic in the book she fleshes out this definition by stating that data governance ensures that the right information is available in the place to the right people at the right time. Information governance is this same principle, but at a higher strategic level and with an emphasis on the policy and not the activity.
Templar doesn’t explicitly state this, but the book is divided into two parts. Chapters one and two comprise the first part which covers why governance matters and the author’s journey into data governance. The last seven chapters are the second part of the book which defines what makes for a successful data governance projects and the essentials for building a world class data governance program.
When Templar talks about data she covers both structured and unstructured data, so that recorded information in business applications like Word, picture libraries and other documents that are familiar to Certified Records Managers are also in the scope of what this book covers. The benefits of a robust data governance are the same as that of information governance. In chapter one states Templar defines in the following way:
A robust data governance structure will provide a greater understanding of the information that is captured and used to run your business. Governance will improve the experience of your customers in their interactions with your employees. Happier customers will directly lead to greater employee satisfaction. It will also help your employees feel competent and informed about their job. Information waste and inefficiencies will be reduced You will have the ability to maker better, more informed strategic decisions. And finally, you will be able to capitalize on your information as an asset for roadmap to growth and stability.(P. 15)
In the second chapter Templar talks about her journey into data governance and what led her into this field. One the important takeaways in this chapter is on p. 41 when she states, “Without information quality, data governance simply cannot succeed. Audits are critical to ensure that business processes are followed.” This is very similar to the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principle of Integrity so that information assets must have a reasonable guarantee of authenticity and reliability. Without confidence in the quality of the information that is being managed there is no value in the program that is being built.
The next part of the book focuses on the essentials that a governance professional needs to know to implement a successful governances program. One of the key truths that truths Templar points out in chapter three is that “it is critical to establish the ‘what’ or outcomes you will use to measure your progress and ultimate success…The most successful governance programs are those that have a few things in common: clear outcomes, executive buy-in, cross functional participation, and a plan that includes milestones and objectives. (P.45-46).” Implementing a world class data governance program cannot happen without a formalized project management approach which is why Templar spends time discussing project management activities such as project charters, kick-off meetings, project plans, etc.
Once you have defined your milestones and objectives with the executives who can help accomplish those then it’s time to get quick wins. Two of the best ways to get quick wins is with clear policies and reference documentation. Policies, when well written, will give a guideline to the end-to-end flow of information. Templar spends a lot of time talking about reference documentation because “few companies have a common set of terminologies across the entire organization…Having common terms is far less common than you would expect. (P.100-101)” With common terms reporting becomes easier and consistent data allows for better decision making. The reference documentation that Templar references are more for the technical side of things, but the need for reference documentation is just as important for records managers. Some of the reference documentation that are important for records managers to have in place include thesauri and controlled vocabulary to achieve the goals of better reporting and decision making.
After policies and reference documentation are in place Templar next recommends deciding how you will structure your governance program as this will have a big impact on the success of your undertaking.
Two main methods exist for implementing a data governance program: Top-down or Bottom-Up. In a Top-Down model, the executive leaders make decisions and pass them down to the data stewards for implementation. And in a Bottom-Up model, as expected from the name, the work is driven as more of a grass roots endeavor where the data stewards self-direct and report up to the executive level. Both have merit and can be successful. (P.121-122).
Neither Top-Down or Bottom-up is better than the other, but it depends on the organization. Organization with strong leaders and a very clear executive-driven strategy and/or mission benefit from Top-Down because accountability is the responsibility of the leadership. Smaller organizations where governance is driven by a person or group that is passionate for improvement or change lean towards the Bottom-Up method.
Typically in records management it’s a person or department that manages records. One of the goals of information governance is not to make every person in the organization a records manager, but to give them the tools and ability to be a wise steward and custodian of information instead of an information hoarder and reliant on the RIM department to do it for them. Something that RIM professionals can take from this book and try to apply to their own situation is the roles that everyone must play with information. Not everyone in an organization is a data professional, but Templar discusses how people will take the role of data owner, data stewards, stakeholders, data quality and “fix-it” analysts, data custodians and architects. We can’t expect everyone to be a records manager, but we need to make them aware of the ownership, stewardship, etc. roles they have with the information in our organizations as information is growing at such a fast rate.
Data governance focuses on people, processes and technology. One of the differences between records management and information governance is that information governance is more than just managing records, but managing the processes, technology and roles of people that work with information. The operating model of people, processes and technology that data governance uses is the same operating model that information governance uses. Every organization has a business model and if an organization does not have an operating model for information it will not thrive. “Information is money. Information provides the framework and the tools to make informed decisions about strategy, investments, direction, threats, opportunities, and all the other aspects of doing business on a day-to-day basis. Particularly for the leadership of the company, information as a data asset is critical. (p. 151)”
Before transferring the governance program to operations it imperative that an information quality program is set up. The eight important steps in setting up an information quality program are as follows:
Understand what is import to measure and where it resides.
Define the data rules – and describe how to measure.
Analyze the data – what needs to improve
Measure the data – create metrics
Improve the data – implement clean up process; add system edit
Control the data – put a process in place to continually improve and manage the quality metrics.
Report on the health of the data – share results with your leadership team
Repeat these steps for continuous improvements (P. 170).
The standard that information quality should be measured is that the information should conform to a standard, have valid ranges, be complete, accurate, consistent, unique, available, timely and current (P. 177).. It is worth the time and effort to ensure you have quality data because bad data leads to lost revenue.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, “Get Governed” and would recommend it to any information governance professional. One of my favorite things about the book is that every chapter ends with a “Small Business Corner.” The “Small Business Corner” takes the principles from the chapter and applies it to those in a small business context. The tone that Templar writes with is very conversational and even though the back cover calls this book, “The textbook for data governance professionals,” it definitely doesn’t read like a textbook, but more like a conversation as it has lot of real world examples. Some parts of the book may be technical, but that’s shouldn’t be a deterrent as that is a minority of the book and there is still insight that can be gleaned from it. For example, when Templar talks about program structure one of the tools she references is data lineage. Data lineage helps to ensure that transformation happens as expected because many organization are in a data glut with Data Lakes, Enterprise Data Warehouses, etc. There are several components that make up data lineage such as where it’s housed, who owns, how it originates, how it is created and managed, etc. and these are the question that we typically ask about records. As information governance uses records and information for business transformation I think it’s important that we take a long look as two data lineage components and apply it to records, documents and information. Those two components are what processes can be transformed by it and how it relates to other information in the business. If you are looking for an information governance book to keep you warm on a cold winter’s night don’t hesitate to pick up Get Governed by Morgan Templar.