Season 3 Episode 5
Welcome to Season 3 of the Law Firm Data Governance podcast. I’m CJ Anderson, founder of Iron Carrot and I’m excited to share more of what I’ve learned in my 20-plus years of working with information and data in law firms.
In this third season: “be the best data governance lead you can be”, I move beyond the ‘what’ of season one and the ‘why’ of season two by introducing some of the ‘how’ and the ‘who’.
Over the 10 episodes in this season, I’ll share what I’ve learned about using a bottom-up approach to achieve your data governance deliverables. I will be talking you through the specific skills and knowledge that can help you be a successful law firm data governance lead.
In this episode, I share what I’ve learned about the training and support that your data owners and data stewards will expect from you. Why this is hard and how you can give everyone what they need as a data governance lead. I’ve tried to synthesise all of my learnings from doing this in law firms into this episode – there’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump in…
Law Firm Data Governance Podcast
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Data governance is about the roles and activities of the people and how they work together. Cross functionally. It is also about supporting and empowering those people to change how they manage data for the ultimate benefit of your firm. The real question is how do you support and educate data owners and data stewards from different teams with different experiences and different knowledge of data governance?
There are three areas of support that your data Framework group members will need from you as the data governance Centre of Excellence lead.
Data literacy, how to perform their role, and help to communicate effectively and work together.
Data literacy is the ability to find, understand, use, and tell stories about the data available to you or that you have available to you to perform your role effectively. This is sometimes called data fluency.
As data governance lead, you need to support the data literacy of the data stewards and data owners in the first instance and the firm more broadly as your data governance framework matures.
When putting together the training and support materials for any of these groups, it is important to remember that the data literacy levels will be different between audiences and individuals. It is important to shape and target each message and to support several literacy levels every time from “I know nothing about this” to, “I’m an expert”.
The easiest way to ensure that a message lands regardless of literacy level is to make sure that it starts by explaining what’s in it for them. You can then go on to provide more detail to help improve the reader’s literacy. Experts will know that detail is there but skip over it and novices will get the detail and support they need to improve their knowledge.
The medium should not constrain these messages. By which I mean don’t just message by e-mail or on Internet pages. Think about straightforward meetings, posters, even short videos of partners talking about the importance of the topic, senior stakeholder endorsements and active communications go much further in changing behaviour and helping people learn than people think.
The second area of focus is how to help them perform their role. Everyone in the firm already has a busy day job, data governance, roles and tasks are often seen as something additional that is going to make a day job harder. What people really want from you is the data governance lead is a clear understanding of what you want them to do, when you want them to do it, why you want them to do it and what’s in it for them.
The standard path is to create terms of reference, a target operating model, a RASCI or RACI model, and maybe a role profile. Then you’ll get all of these approved and you’ll publish them to the group.
Maybe then you have a meeting with the group to review these things, and one of the first questions you get is “yeah, but what do you actually want me to do?” You need to invest time in each data owner and each data steward as an individual. They are looking for personal communication. Calls, help guides, training, targeted specifically to them to determine exactly what’s being asked of them and what the benefit is to them personally of doing it.
This means that you have to understand their level of data literacy or data fluency, their day job, their skills and their drivers to tell them what they need to hear and to support data governance. Just talk to them, be clear and direct about your expectations.
The third element is effectively communicating and working together.
In Season 2, episode two, I talked about the drivers for law firm data governance, and one of the top drivers is the lack of communication and transparency of data decisions. A lack of transparency and cross functional communication means that no one understands the decision-making process behind operational data management decisions. Even for data in which they have an interest.
When leaders create structures designed not to communicate, employees mirror this behaviour and withhold what they feel about managing data. This leads to a lack of trust in the data and in each other. Without transparency, there is no mechanism for people to contribute to or collaborate on a challenging decision, and this is where your data governance framework comes in. One of the key roles that data governance lead performs is to bring together disparate groups of people to form an effective communication and decision-making forum.
These forums depend on trust on understanding and on mutually transparent conversations about data, successes and challenges, as well as how they might be solved. An effective way of doing this is to borrow something from the way that smaller rural primary schools support their pupils. In these classrooms with one teacher and many academic years of students. It’s not unusual for “each one, teach one” to be in play. This means that pupils who are good at a subject help those who are not so good at it.
It is a useful context to transpose into the creation of a data stewards or data owners forum, providing encouragement to share their expertise and support each other with aspects of learning the documentation and applying the new best practises outside of the formal meeting. This helps you to quickly build the trust layer that’s required to resolve cross functional data issues.
It’s important to consider the needs of your data owners and stewards to help identify what kind of support would best help them. And there are three different approaches to a support methodology. It’s not unusual for people to be confused about the difference between them, so in short, there is training, teaching the skills and knowledge related to specific competencies that improve someone’s capacity, capability, productivity and performance. Coaching, which is helping someone to correctly set a goal and to find the best way to achieve that goal with a focus on ‘here and now’ problems. And mentoring, sharing, knowledge, experience and skills to help someone develop their career further.
It’s also not unusual to find that the kind of support each data steward or data owner needs changing overtime, so the type of support that you’ll give them today will not be what you give them tomorrow and the type of support being provided by the data governance Centre of Excellence should be reviewed on a regular basis.
There is so much I could say about training and support because it really is one of the key parts of a data governance leads role. I’ve covered the important areas of data literacy, the support to do what’s asked of them in their role and effective collaborative working. So, if you take away nothing else, remember to make each piece of training or support personal and relevant to each individual you interact with.
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 and data governance leads can learn about data governance. Join me next time for season three, episode 6, “building a framework”.
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