What are achievable data governance goals for law firms in the first year?

This question came up several times in recent data governance roadmap workshops. 

Everyone has big aspirations for what they want to get done, but the reality is that changing people’s behaviour takes more time than you think.

Through our experience of working with clients who are at an early stage in their Data Governance journey, we have identified five common goals for Year One.

Identify your critical data

You can’t govern everything, and nor should you want to. 

Your focus should be on the essential data for your firm’s client and operational success and the data you need to retain for regulatory purposes.

Knowing your critical data gives your data governance effort clear parameters to work within, making it easier to identify stakeholders and effect change.

Agree to stakeholders, roles, and responsibilities

You know that you need people to be accountable and responsible for the critical data you identify, but what does that mean? 

It means codifying, improving and adding data management activities, accountabilities, and responsibilities to the roles of the people involved in managing your critical data.

Figuring out what these roles, accountabilities and responsibilities look like and getting stakeholder agreement to take on these roles is the first activity your stakeholders perceive as ‘data governance’.

Getting this right increases support for and participation in data governance activities. It also helps you identify the right people to hold these roles.

Know how to address urgent challenges

The reason that most firms implement data governance is in response to an urgent challenge or set of challenges.

When you have the right people accountable for the firm’s critical data, you need to be clear about how you will use them to help address the urgent challenges that formed your data governance business case.

Senior stakeholders will see a clear correlation between the new roles and the firm’s strategy. An action plan gives them comfort that data governance is an enabler, not a blocker.

Set up your communication and collaboration mechanisms

Every firm has its preferred ways of communicating and collaborating, and data governance must make use of all of them.

You must set up intranet pages, team spaces, distribution lists, meeting schedules, and everything else your firm offers to help people share and collaborate on Data Governance content and activities.

Setting these things up as soon as possible helps increase transparency. It enables better communication between stakeholders, setting the expectation that data governance happens best by everyone working out loud.

Establish an issues log and priority triage

Once you start getting groups of data stakeholders together, new data challenges are going to come up.

It would help if you had a way of capturing these issues and prioritising them against the known urgent issues and functional objectives.

That might be by using a ticketing system the firm already has in place, or you might need to create a simple list somewhere.

When data stakeholders add to the list of issues and collaborate on prioritising them, it increases their confidence in the impact of data governance and trust in the other stakeholders’ abilities. This increased confidence and trust makes them more willing to help solve high priority challenges.

Next steps

You can download a copy of our “Guide to identifying data owners” from the Resources page.