What is a data governance framework?

Season 1 Episode 9

In this episode, CJ Anderson begins at the beginning by explaining the data governance framework.

What it is, who and what to include when creating it and how to build it, so it works effectively.


Law Firm Data Governance Podcast

  • Do you want learn more about the podcast?
  • Are you curious about what’s coming up in future seasons?
  • Do you want to listen to the latest episode?

Answers to these questions and more can be found on the podcast page.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to 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.

In this episode, I’ll begin at the beginning by explaining the data governance framework.

What is it? Who and what to include when creating it, how and when to build it, and how you get it to work effectively? Let’s start with the definition.

What is the data governance framework? Well, data governance is the coordination of people, processes and technology to manage and optimise the use of data as a valued asset.

It utilises a collection of policies, practices and procedures which help to ensure the proper management, ownership and use of data assets within the firm.

Since data governance has the primary objective of affecting people data related behaviour, it involves a culture change.

Your data governance framework provides the operational context to that culture change.

It becomes the mechanism for controlling, that is, planning, monitoring and enforcing and for leading your data governance activities.

You usually create a data governance framework once you’ve set out your firm’s data vision and your objectives.

The next step, of course, is to understand the documentation gaps and the critical data challenges that need to be solved? You’ll include the activities to plug those gaps and solve those challenges, the what and when in your data governance road map, sometimes called a data strategy.

But that isn’t the end of your thinking now that you’ve figured out what has to get done

But that isn’t the end of your thinking.

Now that you’ve figured out what has to get done, you should start thinking about the roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities you’ll need to have in place to enable these data governance activities to take place.

The data governance framework is the who and the how part of your firm’s data governance roadmap/data strategy, whatever you guys call it.

The best practice is to develop your data governance framework in parallel with developing your roadmap or strategy, since engagement and training and communications for your framework stakeholders will need to be timetabled alongside other deliverables. You shouldn’t underestimate the amount of time that it will take to help your data stakeholders your group members to understand their new roles and the new expectations that you have for them.

So thinking about those data governance framework groups then, you have a data steering group which is the top layer where the senior stakeholders who can make decisions about change, who can work on strategic data governance issues, will sit.

This group is responsible for influencing how much time and money and other resources are spent on championing data governance activities throughout the firm and actually doing data governance activities throughout the firm.

You will usually find that there’s a representation from each of the functional groups in business services and often practice representatives in this group.

The middle layer – the tactical layer, if you will, is the data owners board and you may not call them data owners, but whatever you call them, that’s where they sit – these are the engine room of the data governance activities.

Every firm is going to have different accountabilities and responsibilities defined for this group and those are going to best reflect the needs of that firm’s data, vision and objectives.

Because this is the tactical layer of the framework, it will have accountability for specific deliverables and will have responsibility for the data stewards.

The final layer – the operational layer, is the data stewards Council and it’s where you find your subject matter experts, the people that are responsible for supporting the data owners, and since these subject matter experts have a good grasp of the practical implications of changes or improvements, things that get trickled down from the other groups, they act as a kind of sense check or balance to timelines and project plans and technical implementations.

These framework groups are going to be supported by other roles, of course you will have a data governance centre of excellence, perhaps, you might not call it that, but you’ll have someone somewhere where there is a business sponsor with the role of championing and driving data governance for the firm and perhaps line managing a data governance lead, data governance manager or whatever they’re called, and it’s usual for that data governance lead to be the person who’s creating the data governance framework or managing, leading, coordinating the data governance framework.

Within this matrix, they act as the conductor for the orchestra of Framework Group members and line manager of any supporting roles that get created within that centre of excellence.

As the framework matures, the data stewards may need specialist support for an aspect of their responsibilities.

This executive or central data steward will become part of the Centre of Excellence and may or may not have responsibilities for specific data.

Things like country lists or office lists.

Things that don’t really belong to anyone else but don’t have another natural home, but everyone in the firm depends on.

It’s going to depend on the needs of your framework and of your firm, there’s no real template that will help you here.

And let’s not forget your data experts.

Roles within the framework matrix must be found for critical stakeholders.

People like your data protection officers, your enterprise architects, your IT security, their knowledge of your firm and their specialist data roles are invaluable to the success of your data governance framework and of your data governance roadmap, your data strategy.

They might be appointed as advisors to one of the groups.

They might have a supporting role within the centre of excellence.

But like any other framework member, you need to document what that you expect them to do.

Make sure they’re clear in their participation.

You don’t want confusion about their role, accountabilities and responsibilities within your data governance context as distinct to their day-to-day jobs.

Like most areas of law firms, the data governance framework is a matrix.

When you’re thinking about creating one, the first step is to use your data governance vision and objectives, your strategy, to create clear goals for your data governance framework.

What do you want them to produce? What do you want them to manage? What do you want them to think about? What do you want them to do? Remember, this framework is the operational mechanism that enables and supports behavioural change for your data management.

Members of your framework groups need to understand these changes.

Think about what you want them to improve, what you want them to create.

Do you want them to develop a business glossary? Data dictionaries? Best practices? Standards? templates?

You might also think about what needs to be done differently or isn’t being done at all.

Documenting each group accountabilities and responsibilities helps you create a profile of the ideal group member.

You can test the profiles by ensuring that all of your key stakeholders fit into your framework groups.

Finally, you need to spend an equal amount of time designing an operating model for your framework.

You’ll need to set this out both in your framework design documentation and in the terms of reference document for each group.

Designing an operating model means thinking about the logistics, the procedures, the communications.

When will people meet? How will people meet? Where will those meeting minutes be stored? Will you have meeting minutes at? For example.

Remember that a data governance framework provides an operational context to a culture change by being the mechanism for controlling and leading data governance activities.

Use the data vision and objectives to set out what you want the framework to do, who will be involved, and how it will get done.

This plan should include the framework groups interactions with the data governance centre of excellence and other vital data roles that the firm already has.

Next time we’ll begin at the beginning by answering the question: “What is a data governance policy?”