Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some stuff we did in 2013.

We’re making major progress! Not to say we don’t still have a gazillion things we want to do but our Data Governance community is awesome and delivered a lot of value to our organization this year. Which is why I’ve been so absent on this blog. It’s been verrry busy!!! Anyway I thought I would share what we did with you.

Issue resolution:

  • 59 root cause Issues logged, prioritized and ownership established
  • 12 root cause issues resolved. (coming soon I hope to be able to share the benefits we are measuring)
  • The resolution of 6729 priority Data Quality issues – I know right?
  • 10 business problems solved at our Steward Drop In Clinic

Next up: expanding our Issue tracker from tracking issues for the Company domain to include multiple data domains.

Change management:

  • 3 Community barometers undertaken with all resulting recommendations completed
  • Training to over 450 stakeholders
  • 10 Data Champions Recognized under a new recognition program
  • Successful transitions of 6 stewards and 1 owner and the addition of 3 new business stewards

Next up: continuing with the barometer, on-going training and communications.

Enterprise Alignment:

  • 1 new Enterprise process for handling Company mergers
  • 2 new Enterprise data Standards (for Company Name and Company Headquarter Address)
  • Process and responsibilities for managing changes or inputs to all enterprise metadata.

Next up: Enterprise business needs for record retention, Company hierarchy and Company life cycle definition.

Governance Organization Framework:

  • Provided support to Company and Market Information domains.
  • 8 Best practices, templates and tools for re-use
  • 2 new processes established for Business Steward and Data Owner transitions
  • 9 Standard Operating Procedures developed for: Business Stewards, Data Owners, Business leads, the DG Office, IT Stewards, Data Stewards, Steward Leaders, Business users and Sponsors.
  • A brand new Data Steward (and Back up) Role.
  • Development and roll out of a Roles and Responsibilities framework for projects, the DG Office and Data Management support.

Next up: expand the roles and responsibilities framework to include other Information Management stakeholders within the organization and establish standard on-boarding training for stewards and data owners.

2014 should be lots of fun 🙂

Deliberate data design and those pesky system constraints.

Is one of the success factors for good data governance due to the alignment of people and process before the technology? Don’t we have to get everyone pretty much on the same page on how we’re going to handle our data before we start talking about systems constraints? If we start to talk technology before the business get their ducks all in a row, won’t we go down the slippery slope of technology starting to drive the solutions vs. the all important business need? Won’t we all look silly if we aren’t even on the same page? 

I’m asking this because we’re at the point where we’ve got some high level processes drafted up, and we’re getting close to alignment. We’ve designed the processes based on the aligned business needs which is a guiding principle that I recommend be a driver for all data initiatives. And now that we’re getting close, but before we’ve got it nailed, the technology constraint talk is starting to creep in. Yikes! I’ve been there before. When you start to talk about ‘the system’ before the process is nailed it doesn’t go quite as planned. It didn’t work the first time and here we are again, only this time we have an opportunity to do things the right way. 

Of course once we get everyone on the same page we’ll have to figure out how we’ll implement the agreed upon process alignment taking into account our technology, resource and scheduling constraints. But isn’t that just um…normal common sense? And something we should do together? Once we’re all talking about the same thing? 

I would really like your thoughts. 

Thank you

You need to master more than just data.

Organizations, leaders, groups, units, business models, priorities and pretty much everything around you is in a constant state of change. How do you manage to stay on top of things and continue to play a role is helping to shape what the change looks like? Do you think that if you keep your head down and soldier on that you will have any influence on the shape or structure of the new group, leader or business model? Perhaps. But not much, or not where it really counts. You need to speak up, sell yourself, play a role and help shape the next iteration if you will. You have the skills that are needed, you wouldn’t be here otherwise. So what makes you so special? What do you have that will help the NEW (whatever) succeed? How can YOU have any influence on what the next iteration looks like? How can YOU master your destiny?

It’s pretty simple. You need to package and sell your rockstarness. (Okay rockstarness is not really a word but it gets the message across and we love making up new terms). You need to let the people who are accountable for shaping the change know that you have some of the right stuff needed to make this happen and that by including you they will have increased their chances for success! Heck, I’m sure you have a business case already in your head. You see the change beginning to happen and you say to yourself:” I could help with this”, or “I know how to make this work”, or even “I can bring these people together to help make this work”. You might even be losing sleep or feeling some stress because you feel so strongly about your ideas for shaping the new change and are frustrated that you are unable to help.

Package Yourself

Write down the stuff that’s in your head. Package it up. One page should do. Send it to some colleagues or mentors and ask for their feedback. Incorporate their feedback. Make it sing. It’s you in one page. Keep it simple and strategic (if you can). Use common language (please) as the potential for You in One Page to be circulated is there and you want it to resonate with anyone who comes across it. You are now prepared!

Now Sell the Package

Request to meet with the influential leaders who are accountable for the change. Let them know you have some skills that can help them and ask for a brief period of their time to discuss the value you hope to bring to the change. I guarantee they will accept your invite and be very happy to talk with you. After all, they have been tasked with this change and will everything they can to ensure its success. If you can help then all the better for them. And you!

Master your destiny!

No one else is responsible for selling you except for you. Take responsibility for shaping that destiny. If the leaders include you in the change then great! If not, then it’s probably not because of anything you didn’t do. It may be out of their hands due to other factors such as politics, culture or organizational readiness. Whatever the outcome, at the very least you won’t bemoan the fact that you didn’t do everything in your power to participate. But if you don’t, you might just get left behind, and you will have no one to blame but yourself. You are the master of your destiny! Make it happen!

The role of a Business Analyst in the Management of Information

A new article showed up the other day on our organization’s internal wiki. The topic was ‘The Role of a Business Analyst (BA) in an Agile project’. The content of the article is just starting to be developed, so I took it as an opportunity to add a comment in the form of a question on “the role of a BA in the management of our information as an asset”. My goal was to generate some discussion around this idea, to see what others in the organization are doing/thinking, and to start the process to perhaps develop some formalized responsibilities in this area.

No sooner had I hit the save button when BAM, there was a response that showed interest in the topic and asked me to elaborate! Exactly the response I was hoping for! Muwah ha ha! You probably should know that the person who responded is a very good friend of mine who is quite comfortable with social collaboration and if it wasn’t for her I probably would be having a discussion with myself…ok it’s not really that bad but why is it that some colleagues have no problem updating their facebook status daily but when it comes to collaborating in a wiki they are running for the hills??  Sigh…subject for another day…

So what is the role of a BA in the management of our information as an asset? A  lot may depend on how your organization is organized, what the culture is, what types of resources you have ( maybe you have BA’s solely responsible for information management) and how mature your IM (information management) practices are. But let’s say for the sake of this opinion that you have a somewhat immature organization from an IM perspective, and you are just starting to organize Data Governance and MDM initiatives. This could mean that you are just starting to develop governing principles and operating policies around IM, and you may not yet have them ‘baked in’ to how you manage and deploy projects. Since some resources within an organization may not be familiar with some of the concepts, my approach will be to describe some of the key outcomes that result from not-so-good information management practices, and how a BA might help to resolve them, or ensure they don’t happen to begin with.

Multiple sources, conflicting rules and differing business uses of information

In order to resolve these types of issues you need to link the data to business objectives. This is standard stuff that I don’t often see. I’m not talking “here’s the data I need for this report”. That is not a business objective. The objective should describe the business decisions or triggers or changes that are the intended result.  e.g. This piece of information is used to determine what type of industry our customer is in so that we may ensure that the best person is assigned to them to help them with their needs. When the business objective is clearly linked to the data, it helps IT resources determine how to best architect the data, and business leaders with the information that they really need. It also helps in the resolution of conflicting rules. E.g. while one unit may use the information to identify the appropriate account manager, another business unit may use the information to identify the total amount of risk they have in that industry so that they can ensure they follow regulatory rules. You cannot resolve conflicting rules without having a good understanding of what the information is used for.

Lack of common understanding of what the data means

Ensuring the data has a clear and easy to understand definition and communicating it broadly reduces errors when data is created, transformed and reported on. Eg.  ‘Address’: describes the street location where the company physically resides. Although it looks somewhat self-explanatory, unless it’s clear and understood, what usually happens is you get all kinds of addresses: the mailing address, an email address [I kid you not], a city, etc..  You cannot assume that everyone has the same understanding of what a piece of data means.

There is a problem with the data but no-one seems to care

Identifying who will be responsible for business decisions on the data (and describing what that responsibility is) will ensure you don’t waste time when something needs to be resolved. This need not be a steward of the data as the organization may not be set up that way, but it could be a person or a role, and it should be written into the requirements that there is someone somewhere responsible for making business decision. E.g. The person (or role) responsible for making decisions regarding this data is XXXX. You may find that you are having difficulties getting someone to actually agree to having their name or role written down and being responsible. If this happens, don’t give them the data. Simple as that. No name, no game!

The data is in a mess (still….) and needs to be cleaned up!

Cleaned up to what? Including quality attributes as part of business requirements ensures that everyone understands how good the data needs to be and allows you to better manage  keeping it that way. E.g. The address information must be updated at least one per year to ensure freshness. It cannot contain phrases such as ‘unknown’ and special characters are not allowed. Using the quality requirements allow you to either perform an analysis of the data to understand how bad (or good) it is, and you can also provide the business with a weekly, monthly or yearly report on the quality, so that they can determine if it still meets their needs.

Here’s the summary of my opinion on how a BA can help in the management of our information as an asset

  • Link the data to business objectives
  • Ensure the data has a clear and easy to understand definition
  • Identify who (or what role) is responsible for business decisions regarding the data
  • Identify quality requirements for the data

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does go a long way to helping manage information as an asset. And it’s easy peasy stuff! The hard part…ahhh…the hard part.  Try telling someone a report is not really a goal and see what happens. Not really a good approach. The best way to go about it? Keep your rule/definition/goals antenna on at all times. Although it may seem hard to extract this information in a formal setting, most business stakeholders talk about this stuff all the time. In fact, that’s all they talk about! We just need to be really good at hearing it!

The role of a Business Analyst in an Agile Project while taking Information Management best practices into consideration (whew!)? That is a story that I hope we are beginning to work on!

Interview with Data Quality Pro

Dylan Jones, founder of the hugely successful Data Quality site: Data Quality Pro, has graciously interviewed me on my approach to achieving some data quality success without the benefit of a business sponsor. Read the full interview here: Interview with Jill Wanless

It was a great experience as it really got me thinking about what it was that really helped our team achieve what we were able to. Dylan does a great job of summarizing the key points and I’d also like to add that achieving data quality success is not a one man job. It requires a team of dedicated and like minded individuals with a good mix of technical savvy, schmoozy sales skills and some serious creativity genes. What I’d really LOVE to do is get a picture up of all of them so you could meet them and see why they are so special. Yeah right..naturally whenever I mention even the slightest suggestion of showcasing their specialness they quickly hide the look of horror on their faces and change the subject. I’m still working on that 😉

So thank you Dylan for being such a supportive champion in my attempts to share our story, and thanks to the best team anyone could ever have!

There I go, getting all Verklempt again..

Data Governance From The Ground Up?

Not really but we can’t sit around forever waiting for the governing roles and responsibilities to be finalized so…

Let me back up a bit. I was the manager of a Data Quality Team. We used creative (aka guerilla) tactics to raise awareness, get buy in, and improve the quality of our customer information. 3 years later I am now a Senior Advisor on the business side, participating in the development of formalized Data Governance. How awesome is that? So what do I mean when I say: “Data Governance from the ground up”? Well due to the fact that Data Governance means a profound change in how we manage our data for both people and processes, lots of discussions and consultations are taking place at the executive level to understand the impacts and begin the process. So in the meantime, a few business stakeholders (yes THEY did it..not me!) have initiated the development of a working group, the goal of which is identify and understand some of the priority data issues that require resolution in order be somewhat organized and prepared for the time when a formal council is established.

The strategy will be to focus on data that is required to support upcoming business objectives, and work together to develop recommendations (and supporting documentation), so that when the formalization occurs, the group is well prepared to begin obtaining approval for and implementing the recommendations. The approach will be to work iteratively starting with the highest priority and pain points, and communicate regularly on the results and successes. The iterative approach will allow the participants and processes to be adjusted and fine tuned as necessary, and will increase the likelihood of buy-in and success.

What happened in Meeting 1?

  • We identified potential stakeholders and agreed that others will be identified as we move forward.
  • We agreed that the scope of the data that we need to focus on will be the basic Company and Contact data: name, address, phone, etc..
  • We agreed that we would start by developing basic operating principles and policies that will drive how we govern our data.
  • And oh yeah, they made me the chair so I get to facilitate, encourage discussion and communicate results…must be my big mouth 🙂

I wanted to share this for a couple of reasons: first, it’s another step up in the Data Quality journey and it will be interesting and hopefully beneficial to others to share the ride, and second, I’m hoping if we get stuck on something I’ll write about it and obtain the feedback and opinions of other subject matter experts. So if you have any questions, comments or feedback, it would be most appreciated.


One small step for IT, one giant step for Data Quality.

I had a vision. My vision was to get buy-in from IT resources to start data management activities at the start of every IT project. Tough thing to achieve when performance is strictly related to delivery, not quality. I could speak [rant..whatever they wanted to call it :P] to them about benefits until I was blue in the face, but until I could describe what the benefits were in terms of project delivery risk management, they quickly went back to managing projects to the way they are used to so they could quickly start on the next one.

I knew that to really get them to listen I needed to put it in their perspective. What are the project risks they encounter every day? What goals are they trying to achieve and how did this tie into the satisfaction of their clients?

Here is what I know:

  • They are busy all the time
  • They have a lot of projects to deliver and limited resources – so no time to even think about new processes
  • They have some satisfied and some not-so satisfied clients
  • They are measured on project delivery (dates) not project quality

So how did I get their attention and show them that pro-active data management activities could help them achieve some of their goals?

I made a diagram. Everyone loves a diagram and no one has time to read text anymore. Plus, I made the diagram in such a way that it has a look similar to a Gantt chart. The goal of the diagram was to show that by not integrating data management activities into their project processes they were actually increasing the data related after project churn: Change requests, data clean-up, data reconciliation etc. These post project activities also used more not less resources (including business resources), which in turn cost money and time and led to less than satisfied clients.

When put in that perspective, most of them nodded their heads in agreement and even provided their own examples of what that after project churn looked like. I’d like to say that after a few of these presentations the corporation saw the light and made a broad announcement that from this day forward Data Quality is a top priority! I’m kidding here…! What did happen though is that the requests to provide Data Quality direction in pre-project analysis increased significantly thereafter. One small step for IT, one giant step for DQ 🙂

Here is the diagram. Click on it to see a larger view.


Guerrilla tactics lead to….change!

Guerrilla tactics lead to… change.

So there I was, a Data Quality manager in IT without a business sponsor. My team and I were applying Guerrilla communivative tactics to raise awareness and get stakeholder engagement when all of the sudden…WHAM!! The ship came in, the planets aligned, the hard work turns to luck, we beat The Kobayashi Maru!!

For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek, the Kobayashi Maru describes a training exercise for Star Trek cadets and it was designed to be a no-win scenario. And let’s face it, if you are running a DQ program and you’re sitting in IT you can only get so far before you absolutely must have a business sponsor.

Our Data Quality team started out 3 years ago and made a lot of good progress. We have an executive (I.T. mind you) approved mandate, we have resources and a budget, we maintain a wiki of over 1000 corporate terms and the related metadata, and we have a small group of business clients who we support and (of course) love dearly. But NOW…now we have a business sponsored Master Data Management (MDM) initiative underway and guess who gets to be the Business Lead for MDM and be ‘The One’ responsible for establishing (and getting business buy-in for) the Data Governance! That’s right, you heard me, I said BUSINESS Lead! I am now officially in ‘the business’ and am reporting directly to ‘the sponsor’! It almost makes me verklempt!

So how did it happen to me? I suppose if you were to watch the movie you would say it was a logical progression. I prefer to think it was the communivative, guerrilla, in your face stalking…nothing says ‘I care’ like persistent determination. So forgive me if I’ve been absent too long, the last few weeks have been interesting to say the least. I am very lucky to be part of this sure to be exciting ride, and I promise there will be more interesting stories ahead.

My New Year Data Quality resolutions for 2010

Because we all know that if we write it down and publish it for all to see we will have a much better chance of success! So here they are:

  1. ‘Communivate’ quality issues to a much broader audience – no more suppressed results – ever!
  2. Establish employee Data Quality performance targets – for ALL employees. (This could be a multiyear task however since it’s a big challenge it will be lots of fun to do)!
  3. No more Mr. (Ms.) nice guy – those of you who know better yet keep causing Data Quality issues beware! I have stats on you! Fear me!! …or maybe I’ll just nicely advise them that I can help them get ready for the soon to be established performance targets – see item #2.
  4. Establish measures and track success of how well our IT project processes are following the supposedly integrated information management protocols – I know it’s not my job to do but sheesh, nobody else is doing it dammit!
  5. Communivate results to the broad audience (see item #1)
  6. Obtain agreement from ‘informal’ data stewards (those that I have established relationships with after stalking for months on end…) to partner with us DQ folks and develop some agreed upon roles and responsibilities. (These will become part of the employee performance targets.)
  7. Take ‘quasi’ business sponsors to task for not doing what they said they would do (also part of the employee performance targets).
  8. And last but not least, I also hereby promise to swear less often, or perhaps more quietly, when hitting the roadblocks that stand in the way.

I can’t wait to reward myself…

‘We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day’. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce~

All I want for Christmas is..

Dear Santa:

I hope you are well. I have been very good this year (don’t listen to the rumours) and would appreciate the following for Christmas:
1. A business sponsor – so when I find a problem that requires a business decision or communication I don’t waste 3 weeks (and I don’t come cheap!) trying to find someone who cares.
2. Data Stewards – who are measured on how they manage the data they are accountable for.
3. Integration of our Data Management Software – so we can match and enhance at the source of data input rather than performing it after the fact.
4. IT best practices – where every IT project includes data profiling.
5. Complete Business Requirements – these would include:
• The identification of the Stewards for the related data and processes
• Data Definitions
• Business Rules
• Governance processes
• Stakeholders
• Business Purpose of data
• Quality requirements for data
• Training requirements related to quality of data
6. Comprehensive Benefits Realization – where costs associated to managing data re-actively are identified
7. Corporate Training for new employees that includes Data Quality best practices
8. Accountability for those who know better yet still create bad data
9. Employee Performance Measures that include at least one objective related to quality of data
10. Effectively communicated and measured corporate policies and procedures related to quality of data

I know I’m asking for a lot, but if you could do this for me I promise it will improve the satisfaction of our customers, reduce our operating costs and make me one seriously happy camper.

Thanks very much,