How to review a law firm data governance capability (New step-by-step case study for law firm data leaders)

In this case study, I will share the process we recently implemented at one of our law firm clients looking to identify gaps and opportunities in their data governance activities.

This case study typifies the key steps, deliverables, and obstacles you should address when reviewing your data governance initiative.

The background

Change at the top

There had been several changes in leadership and the Data Governance Centre of Excellence over the three years the firm’s data governance initiative had been operational. With so many people being involved in supporting data governance in a short space of time, the firm had lost sight of its data governance vision, objectives, and priority activities.

Progress slowing down

The resulting start/stop approach to activities was impacting the pace of improvements. The new Data Governance Lead also had the impression that the data governance framework group members had lost clarity on what they were supposed to be doing.

Getting an outsider’s perspective

Since Iron Carrot has lots of experience creating and supporting data governance frameworks in law firms, CJ was asked to help the Data Governance Lead evaluate the firm’s Data Governance capabilities. 

The process

A data governance capability review follows a similar process to creating an initial law firm data governance roadmap. But some of the steps happen in a different order. Over three months, the Iron Carrot Team, led by CJ, worked with the Data Governance Lead to review all aspects of Data Management, Data Governance, and the firm’s data issues.

Step 1: Capturing feedback

CJ interviewed all the Data Governance Framework Group members to capture their feedback on what they thought was working well, could be improved, or completely missing. The summarised feedback was played back to each group for discussions by the Data Stewards, Data Owners, and Data Governance Steering Committee.

These meetings also gave CJ and the Data Governance Lead an opportunity to remind everyone about their role in the framework and what was expected of them.

Key stakeholders in other functions (like Data Protection, IT Security, Enterprise Architecture, and so on) were also asked to give their views on how the Data Governance Framework helped them or could be helped by them.

Step 2: Data Management Maturity Assessment

Each function’s data owners and data stewards were asked to complete the Iron Carrot Data Management Maturity Questionnaire collectively. This 30-question multiple choice spreadsheet allowed each function to obtain an instant view of its own data maturity. The collation of everyone’s results also set out a clear picture of the firm’s overall data maturity.

Step 3: Data Governance Vision

With all that feedback in mind, CJ asked the Data Governance Steering Committee to review the Data Governance vision to confirm that it was still meeting the firm’s needs and expectations. After helping them make edits to reflect changes to the Firm’s strategy, the Vision was republished and communicated across the firm.

Step 4: Data Governance Goals

Using the feedback outputs, CJ then led the Data Owners through a series of workshops to realign the goals to the new Vision. 

As before, the goals included things which the firm needed its people to:

  • do differently (processes)
  • learn about (changes)
  • use differently (technologies)
  • share better (communications)
  • understand better (data & metadata)
  • get to know (other data stakeholders)

Step 5: Data Governance Maturity Assessment

In parallel to the workshops, CJ and the Iron Carrot Team used their knowledge of law firms and data governance best practices to undertake a gap analysis of core documentation and activities. In addition to giving a clear picture of the firm’s current data governance maturity, these gaps were shared with the Data Governance Lead and Data Owners to help inform their thinking about goals.

Step 6: SWOT Analysis

Using the feedback outputs, plus the goals and gap analysis, CJ and the team developed a picture of the key Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats relating to the Data Governance Framework and its activities.

CJ and the Data Governance Lead talked it through several times, ensuring that all the weaknesses and threats were addressed, the strengths built on, and the opportunities planned for.

Step 7: Issues Log Analysis

This activity isn’t usually part of the Iron Carrot data governance capability review. Still, given the number of changes to the team and the lack of progress, CJ and the Iron Carrot Team were asked to review the issues log and make recommendations on how to improve engagement and get to implemented solutions.

Step 8: Recommended Activities

The previous steps’ outputs helped CJ and the Data Governance Lead create a new Data Governance Roadmap. This roadmap set out the short-, medium-, and long-term objectives and activities in a simple, clear, one-page diagram accompanied by a more detailed document to support the Data Governance Lead in taking it forward.

The payoff

Happy Data Governance Lead

The new Data Governance Lead felt much more confident about picking up in-flight projects and activities and had a better understanding of the roles their team performed in the Data Governance Centre of Excellence.  They felt much happier about delivering data governance to meet the firm’s expectations.

Engaged Data Governance Framework Group Members

The Data Governance Steering Committee Members, Data Owners, and Data Stewards felt listened to and supported. Their involvement in the review and roadmap processes helped them to re-engage with data governance and feel excited to contribute to the next steps.

Clarity for the Firm

Senior stakeholders, including the Data Governance Lead, were able to give confidence to the firm that Data Governance was still a high priority by sharing the updated vision and new Data Governance Roadmap. The simplicity of the roadmap steps made it easy for the Data Governance Lead to give clarity to the firm on what to expect and when.

Summing up and next steps

Final advice

It’s never easy to be dropped into an existing team and unclear about what’s happening. Even worse if the team themselves can’t help you understand what’s expected. Getting an outside perspective of what’s happened, what is happening, and what needs to happen next can take the pressure off a new Data Governance Lead.

Would you like some help with data governance at your organisation?

We have developed a unique data governance road-mapping solution to help business leaders launch the proper foundation for data governance through our extensive data governance and information management background.

Our five-step road mapping process quickly helps law firms create a complete framework and plan for assuring the governance and quality of its data to realise the strategic goals.

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