LESSON - Data Quality Center of Excellence
By Frank Dravis, Vice President Information Quality, Firstlogic
If you want to create a sustainable culture of data quality in an organization and want to grow that culture beyond the bounds of one or two functional units, you will need to have an enterprise data quality center of excellence (COE). The important points here are that the culture of data quality be both sustainable and enterprisewide. If your goal involves something less, maybe cleansing name and address data on two or three columns, a single project manager with the help of one or two temporary analysts will suffice. But if you want to grow data quality practices beyond the silo wall, you’ll need a COE.
Organizations with a successful data quality COE share common characteristics:
- They have a formal, permanent organization with a charter.
- They are managed by a data quality champion, usually a director or manager of data quality. This person fervently believes in the value of quality data.
- Their director has strong communications skills, can build and present a strong business case, and has latent sales abilities.
- They are staffed with a combination of skills: people coming from both business and IT. All personnel have formal data quality job titles.
- They practice a clear application of data stewardship, which means their staff is structured in line with sound data management principles and the roles and responsibilities of data stewards.
- They have a business line sponsor, usually a senior manager, with whom the COE director works closely.
- Most have immediate access to an outside consultant to call upon for aid in employing best practices, but more important, as an independent party to validate their findings.
- They have a steering committee or a data governance board.
A data governance board typically comprises senior managers from various line or business units in the enterprise. The board’s primary purpose is to be the final authority on all things data. Many decisions concerning corporate information never reach the board, but those information issues of crucial importance are usually raised by one or more board members at the behest of their direct reports. Beyond the board’s primary purpose, it serves a number of roles, including as a bridge across organizational change. The creation of the board serves as the catalyst to grow a series of functional projects into an enterprisewide initiative—the COE.
If you want to create a sustainable culture of data quality in an organization and want to grow that culture beyond the bounds of one or two functional units, you will need to have an enterprise data quality center of excellence.
When and if the COE loses its data quality champion, the board is there to appoint a new one. With six to eight members on the board, it could lose one or more members and still function until replacements can be found, thus sustaining critical mass.
Without a data governance board, a firm could face issues in overcoming the loss of key personnel. For example, within a four-month period one firm’s COE program sponsor was transferred and the data quality champion left the company. Much rhetoric was given to finding a replacement for the champion, but with the sponsor gone and no other senior manager lining up to support the initiative, it died. Within a month all but the most baked-in data quality practices and projects were dropped. Regardless of all the benefit and payback generated by the various data quality projects up to that point, the model, the culture, at that firm was not entrenched enough to overcome this loss.
The moral? A strong data quality initiative, and the building of a COE, can take place without a board of governance. However, if you’ve put your heart and soul into building a COE, once it’s done, take the time and care to build a data governance board to ensure your legacy’s half-life will never be measured.