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Blowing Up Data Governance with Laura Madsen

Laura Madsen, co-founder and partner at Moxi Analytics, discusses the four objectives for successful governance.

In this recent “Speaking of Data” podcast, Laura Madsen discusses how to re-energize your data governance programs. Madsen is co-founder and partner at Moxy Analytics and a TWDI faculty member. [Editor’s note: Speaker quotations have been edited for length and clarity.]

For Further Reading:

The Scope of Data Governance

Succeeding with Data Governance and Data Quality

Three Ingredients of Innovative Data Governance

“My actual title is Chief Blow Stuff Up Officer,” Madsen began. “We at Moxy are always trying to challenge long-held conventions, and giving ourselves non-traditional titles is a part of that.” She then gave a brief overview of how her ability to explain data to business leaders in a clear manner led her to her current position as a 25-year veteran of the data and analytics field, culminating with her literally writing the book on data governance in 2019.

She went on to discuss some of her work as an instructor for TDWI, teaching a number of courses on data governance.

“For example, I will be teaching a course on committee-free data governance next February,” she said. “This is something I see as a repeated failure in most organizations’ governance efforts -- that committees and councils often just don’t work. However, instead of trying to figure out a different way, many organizations just double down on them.

“The truth is, I never intended to be the data governance expert,” Madsen explained. “Governance just ended up as the Achilles heel of so many successful data and analytics programs, it needed to be addressed.” What was frustrating was that organizations weren’t thinking critically about their governance programs at the same time that everything else about the data industry was changing. “Maybe data governance picked me rather than me picking it,” she said.

“One of the biggest mistaken notions around governance,” Madsen said, “is that it’s all about policies and procedures. However, what you’re doing with respect to data governance has to be providing value to your organization and it’s a rare occurrence that business stakeholders will say that a data policy is providing much value.”

Rather, Madsen laid out four objectives that she deems necessary for successful governance programs:

  • Increasing data usage
  • Improving data quality
  • Maintaining data lineage
  • Ensuring data protection

“You don’t have to be going all in for all four of those objectives all at once, but you do have to be at least working on each of them in some fashion,” Madsen explained. “That’s why they’re written as actions to be taken rather than goals to be achieved.”

Madsen noted, however, that if she were to place one of these objectives in a position of prominence, it would be increasing data usage. “After all, from a governance perspective, what’s the point of all of it if not to increase the use and value of your organization’s data assets?” She pointed out that the remaining three elements in the list are intended to support the goal of increased data usage.

“Improving data quality, which involves tracking data lineage and ensuring data protection, are key elements to increasing data usage throughout your organization.”

[Editor’s note: You can listen to this podcast on demand. Madsen will conduct two brand-new classes at TDWI’s Transform 24 conference in Las Vegas February 19-23, 2024: Streamlining Data Governance Programs and An Operational Framework for Modern Data Governance.]

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