10 October, 2012

Wrap-up from the ASUG Data Governance SIG in Houston

I've spent the last three days in Houston at the ASUG Special Interest Group (SIG) for Data Governance. It's an area that has been steadily growing and in its eighth annual incarnation there was 220 attendees and three full days of sessions, all focused on data governance. Certainly, a stark contrast to the Oracle conference I attended last week in San Fransisco which had 50,000 attendees with a very broad range of interests. Kudos to the organizers for putting on an excellent event with an intimate atmosphere where we all had the opportunity to connect with everyone else.

The content included lots of invaluable insights from various SAP customers and industry thought leaders, all about how to tackle data governance. One of many things I wanted to validate at this event was the case for using Microsoft tools as an important part of the tool bag for data teams. It was evident that master data management and governance are areas where using tools such as Excel, Access and SharePoint is very common. Data governance is often championed by technically savvy business people who want to be empowered to solve problems without lengthy and costly projects on the tool implementation side of the equation. Hence, it makes sense that these business user oriented tools are heavily utilised. However, it was also clear that the use of these tools needs to be managed properly to keep everything aligned with the long term objectives.

There was a lot of talk about best practices for executively sponsored governance programs with a well-defined long term roadmap. However, it was also acknowledged that a top-down approach does not, by itself, yield the short term results required to keep the movement going. As it was nicely put by Maria Villar from SAP when talking about SAP's internal data governance program: "Information governance is a team sport and everybody has to play" and "ownership should be pushed to the lines of business." Most speakers reasserted that process owners in the business should be accountable for their own master data. In one session, when the audience was asked whether they had a roadmap outlining their master data program, the majority responded that data management capabilities have been introduced on a reactive basis.

All in all, I sensed a consensus around the need for both top-down and bottom-up data governance initiatives. There needs to be a long term roadmap outlining the strategic goals which will ensure the continuous support from top management and alignment with the company's business goals. But there also needs to be more tactical initiatives where lightweight and cost-effective solutions will yield immediate results and measurable business improvements. It's the latter, I'm currently focused on at Winshuttle.

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