Monday, June 8, 2015

How British Airways & my Vet reinforced a valuable Data Governance lesson

A week ago my son & I took our Savannah cats to the vets for their regular inoculations.  We had the first appointment of the afternoon (2pm) and this was a 10 minute appointment.  I had a very important audio at 3pm & wasn't concerned; after all we had plenty of time.

We weren't seen for this "first" appointment for at least 35 minutes, were kept in the dark regarding status and then afterwards were attempted to be "up sold" other services.  I barely made the audio on time & needless to say was underwhelmed by the experience. 

Yesterday I headed to the U.S. from LHR to visit a client for a big Data Governance initiative I'm advising on. I'd arranged to meet the client 3 hours after my scheduled landing time into JFK. Everybody boarded the BA flight on time, the doors closed .... but we sat on the tarmac & went nowhere.  
The outcome was similar to the vets visit.  

We were late.

There was a big delay (considerably more than 35 minutes).  

However unlike my visit to the vets I didn't feel immensely cheesed off with this experience.

Why was this & why did it make me think about Data Governance programs I've observed?

In the first example, the reception staff at the vets told us nothing.  We'd checked in early for a 2pm appointment and they confirmed we indeed had the 2pm slot.  But no updates were provided, no indication of what the situation was, no advice on whether we should come back later .. absolutely nothing.  We sat in the waiting room becoming increasingly frustrated despite asking for updates several times.  

In the BA case, I and the other 300+ passengers were continually updated with what  was going on, why there was a delay and when we expected to move.  I was able to  contact the client in the US & re-set their expectation on my arrival too.

So whilst both had a similar outcome - ie we were late; one left me with a feeling that as far as they were concerned I just didn't matter.

A while back I wrote an article "Data Governance is about Hearts & Minds - Not Technology"

This message is continually reinforced as I see good (and bad) Data Governance initiatives globally.  
There are many things that characterise the successful ones from the unsuccessful.  But one of the major differentiators is the presence and quality of the communication  program that runs along side the Data Governance initiative.

You have got a communication program?
I sure hope so.

Successful Data Governance initiatives go out of their way to ensure communication is frequent, effective and covers the people who are going to be affected not just the sponsor(s).  And above all it has to be realistic and regular.  There's no point starting a Data Governance program with a great fanfare & then not keeping people appraised of progress.   This is true whether it's a full on strategic Data Governance initiative or even if you're embarking on Data Governance by stealth.

The most successful initiatives combine regular semi-formal updates with informal  communities of interest.  The COI is a great way to get involvement from a wide variety of stakeholders affected by the DG initiative and really helps to tease out issues that frequently the Data Governance program designers hadn't anticipated.  

I've run communication sessions on Data Governance initiatives where we've taken a previous data "horror story" from within the organisation and then "dry run" it through the new Data Governance model.  In fact, as part of designing the target Data Governance model I always use a number of real & hypothetical scenarios to validate the target operating model & organisation structures. This both demonstrates the effectiveness of the proposed target model and provides additional understanding to and feedback from the  stakeholders - it's frequently the ah-ha moment for many. 

So, don't underestimate or overlook the critical importance of baking in a communication strategy into your Data Governance initiative.  Your great strategy and Data Governance structures can be rendered useless without the understanding and buy-in from the people who are going to be affected by it.

The bottom line:
Successful Data Governance really is about Hearts & Minds.  

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