Season 2 Episode 10
Welcome to Season 2 of the Law Firm Data Governance podcast, the data governance companion for law firm leaders who want to know more about implementing and improving data governance. Each week I’ll help you with your law firm’s data governance initiative by sharing something I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of working with information and data in law firms.
Over this season, I’ll explore law firm drivers for data governance and the benefits of data governance. So whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or getting some support to get started with data governance, I hope this season helps set you up for success.
In this final episode of the season, I’ll share some top tips for shaping your data governance business case.
Law Firm Data Governance Podcast
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Welcome to season two of the law firm Data Governance Podcast. I’m CJ Anderson, founder of Iron Carrot, and I’m thrilled to be back with another season of the Data Governance Companion for law firm leaders who want to know more about implementing and improving data governance.
Each week I’ll help you with your law firm’s data governance initiative by sharing something that I’ve learned in my 20 plus years of working with information and data in law firm. Over this season, I’ll explore a law firm’s drivers for, and the benefits of, data governance.
So, whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or you’re making the business case to get some help to get started with data governance, I hope that this season helps to set you up for success.
This is season 2, episode 10 of the law firm Data Governance Podcast. In this final episode of the season, I’ll share some top tips for shaping your data governance business case.
When you’re sitting down to write your business case for data governance or you’re preparing for early stakeholder conversations, you will be thinking about the drivers for data governance and the benefits for the firm.
When doing anything in a law firm, you need to get stakeholder buy-in by explaining what’s in it for them. That means you will need to understand the benefits of data governance for your firm and how they clearly align to what your firm wants to achieve.
I recommend starting by looking at your firm’s strategy, the innovation strategy, practice and business services, business plans and other documents like that. These will give you a good sense of what the firm expects from its data, whether these documents explicitly say ‘data’ or not.
There is no point in having the firm strategy bobbing along like a balloon without connecting it to the practical steps needed for data governance on the ground. Someone or something needs to be holding the string, making that connection and that’s you. Use your data governance business case to clearly explain how and why it supports the firm in delivering the strategy, the business plans and the goals.
It never hurts to explain the obvious in a business case, so set out what you know that the readers probably won’t. Definitions and clear statements are your best approach. For example, you could open by setting out that data governance aims to help ensure that critical data has meaning, explain that accountable and responsible people, owners, and stewards are managing the data properly, then share the result. The firm’s data will be consistent. It will be good quality; it will be compliant with regulations and it will be trusted and available to the people who need it to do their job.
Your next section could clarify why data governance is important now. In Episode 1 of this season, I talked about how data governance is essential for law firms because data is an economic asset. Data can help firms improve their operations, increase revenue, solidify relationships with clients, produce new revenue streams, improve the quality of current products, establish competitive differentiation, allow innovation, and reduce risks. And that’s quite a broad statement. Tailor it to align with your firm strategic goals.
And that will lead you neatly into talking about your firm’s drivers. In Episode 2, I explored what things, internal or external to the firm makes now the right time for this business case. Is it client expectations? Is it a lack of trust in the firm’s data, a lack of strategic data management, or a lack of communication and transparency of data decisions? Or is it something else? Whatever it is, explain it in a way that makes sense to your reader.
In Episodes 3 to 9, I talked about seven ways law firms benefit from data governance. To help you get started, Iron Carrot has found that every data governance business case they’ve been involved in has included some combination of those seven benefits.
The most frequently used benefit is having a better understanding of the firm’s clients. In no particular order, the other benefits are lowering data management costs, increasing access to data, having a shared firm language, easier innovation and collaboration, accelerating digital transformation, and having better decision ready data.
When considering your business case and the stakeholders you want to influence, you will probably not use all seven. It’s common for firms to pick the top three or top five benefits and to focus on those. Since this is a list of the most common benefits, you’ll probably have a few more that are specific to your firm.
When you build your business case, you should also explain how data governance will be implemented. I always put the firm’s people first and focus on identifying and formalising the accountabilities and responsibilities that already exists within the firm.
The people in operational data roles have a great understanding of where a firm’s challenges are. They often have lists of historical data problems that never get solved, or regular feedback from practice users of systems and reports you can use this knowledge to help guide your data governance vision and to set common data goals. Remember that many people will hear governance and assume that it’s something that will be done ‘to’ them or ‘for’ them. At worst, they’ll hear governance as a blocker or an unnecessary administrative overhead.
Your business case should explain that data governance is the framework that enables conversations between the right people to improve the firm’s strategic data management. Data governance having the right roles, accountabilities and responsibilities will support the firm’s people to manage better the firm’s data, which in turn contributes to delivering the firm’s strategic goals. And you can talk about the documents and standards and best practices, which can also help, but fundamentally it’s about the activities of people and the focus is on how they work together cross functionally.
Data governance is about supporting and empowering people to change how they manage data for the ultimate benefit of the firm. So, your data governance implementation effort and how you explain that effort will focus on planning, communicating, and managing this behavioural change.
This sets out that your big picture vision is that data governance is about people. It’s not a technology, it’s not a service, it’s probably not even a new department. I’m always surprised when the first question people ask me is which data governance technology to put in their business case. Technology is great, but it’s an enabler, a helper, it’s not the solution.
I’m supposing that you don’t know what data you have, who is accountable and responsible for that data, what the data usage rules are, what the authoritative data source is, and what downstream systems are dependent on that data. You’re going to need a lot more than technology to help you.
But if you can’t answer those questions, if you don’t have data governance, you can’t begin to improve processes, remove duplicates, and leverage cross functional data for reporting. You’re not managing your firm’s data like a critical strategic asset. And these are all things that you should draw out as you develop your business case.
We’ve covered many topics in this episode so here are the top five tips for writing a business case for data governance:
- Try to tie it to the firm’s strategy, using examples of drivers and benefits which support data governance as an enabler.
- Assume that your audience knows nothing about data governance and explain why they need to manage data like a critical strategic asset.
- Frame your implementation proposal by focusing on the firm’s people and how data governance roles already exist, albeit informally
- Reinforce that data governance is a firm wide behavioural change, not a blocker to innovation or other changes.
- Take a data governance technology off the table, for now.
Thank you for joining me for this law firm Data Governance Podcast episode. I hope you enjoyed it.
Please share, like, and review this episode so that more law firm leaders can learn about data governance.
This was the last episode of Season 2 which explored law firm drivers and the benefits of data governance. So, whether you’re making the business case to create your data governance capability or making the business case to get some resources to get started with data governance, I hope I’ve helped set you up for success.
We’re about to start work on Season 3, so make sure you never miss an episode by following Iron Carrot on social media if you’ve not already done so. and please get in touch if you’ve got questions or topic ideas for future episodes.