What is the best structure for data governance programs?

The optimal approach to a data governance framework includes a program team, a data governance council and stewards. Expert Anne Marie Smith explains what role each group plays.

Many organizations struggle with the design and implementation of their data governance programs for a variety of reasons. They may not understand the need for an enterprise approach to data governance and may attempt to implement policies via a line of business, an application or a functional area division.

This is a recipe for failure, as all successful data governance programs are enterprise-wide; they span all lines of business, all applications and all functional areas. Without this holistic view and the support of all the enterprise's areas, the goals of data governance will not be met.

Data governance is the development and implementation of policies, practices, standards and procedures that manage data and information across an organization. If all of the above are not applied across the organization, then the existing data anomaly collisions will remain and be reinforced.

There is an optimal organizational structure that successful data governance programs use. The structure includes:

  • A data governance program team comprising data management and data governance professionals. The team members develop the policies and practices in conjunction with the lead business data stewards and set the standards for data and metadata to be used throughout the organization.
  • A data governance council consisting of senior leadership representatives from all the business areas and IT. This council approves the policies, practices and standards for the program team. They also appoint the data stewards and select the lead business data stewards for each subject area.
  • A set of data stewardship teams from each business area that helps design the policies and practices with the data governance team and implement them in conjunction with the data custodians from IT. Each team of data stewards is directed by a lead business data steward. The leads then form a data stewardship coordinating group that settles cross-group differences with policies and practices and refines definitions and other metadata as needed.

Although these groups may use different names in other organizations, this structure has been proven to be the most successful approach to implementing enterprise data governance programs.

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