What do centuries-old financial institutions have in common with modern, data-driven businesses?

Not much.

So why do so many organizations look to banks and insurers for data governance advice?

This was the question Rupal Sumaria asked as she set out to establish a data governance program at Penguin Random House UK. 

“It’s all about people, policy, process, and technology,” explained Rupal. “It sounds simple, right? But let’s be honest. When you first start out in data governance, no one tells you how hard it can be.”

In fact, much of the “how-to” material available online was developed by and for the financial services sector, which has been working in in data governance, compliance, and policy management for decades and has well-established best practices.

Rupal shared her five tips for setting up a data governance practice at the 2022 data.world fall summit. 

People: The Struggles of Selling Data Governance

Rupal says, “study your audience, and take time to understand what they care about. At Penguin Random House, I proposed that we could sell more books if we better governed our data; your unique selling point should align to your company’s goal or mission.”

You’ll likely need many presentations or variations of your story to sell data governance to different people and departments across the organization, shared Rupal. Crafting messaging for different parts of your organization that are asking for help will help you tailor your approach and also allow you to focus on the teams that need your help the most. All this work will turn you into an expert salesperson with a bank of internal marketing content to use in future communication. And all the while you’ll be building great relationships within your business, which will help you going forward.

Rupal Sumaria, Penguin RandomHouse UK Quote

“We started to focus on one area with the aim that we showed our value fast,” shared Rupal. “Now we have three to four core areas of our business involved, with tentacles dipping out into other departments.”

Policies: What Are They and How Do You Apply Them?

Rupal suggests starting with a simple and focused data governance policy, perhaps focusing on a single business area.

What do you need to prioritize? This depends on your organization’s prior experience with data governance and your business strategy. If this is your business’ first stab at data governance, focus on the foundational elements such as data ownership or a business glossary and build out from there.

If your company does have prior experience, conduct research and gather feedback on what has and has not worked in the past. If you’re really lucky, you may be able to lean into the momentum of a big strategic project such as a data transformation project. If so, embed data governance from the beginning; it makes it much easier to encourage adoption.

“It may take a little bit longer, but you need to remember that often when you’re starting out that data stewards are wearing multiple hats and may have a main role already,” says Rupal. “I find a lot of the time that willingness to be practical, help them break down their work into smaller increments, work with them, and listen to them, helps them feel heard and brings you goodwill, which you need as you continue to drive your organization’s data governance adoption.”

Process: Big Bang or Phased Approach?

Rupal says it’s tempting to want to set up a steering committee, an advisory board, or a data governance working group. But you should avoid doing this right away. First try communicating about data governance in an email newsletter, a video, or even use data world’s collaboration features.

Technology: When Should You Bring in a Data Catalog?

So you need a data governance tool set. But in order to get buy-in for the tool, you need to show the value of data governance. And to show the value of data governance… you need a tool set. It’s the chicken and egg scenario. 

“A proof concept or a pilot to show value quickly is a great option to persuade your business,” said Rupal. “A good software partner should be willing to help you on your journey, and I can’t sing data.world’s praises enough. data.world’s content lives up to the hype. We are really pleased to have invested in a support partner like data.world.”

Putting Your Plan Into Practice

Rupal Sumaria, Penguin RandomHouse UK Quote

To overcome the struggles of adopting a data governance system, Rupal suggests the following: