Season 1 Episode 2
One of the most common misconceptions we encounter is the confusion between data management and data governance.
In this podcast episode, Cj Anderson begins at the beginning by talking about the difference between data governance and data management.
She’ll explain why the confusion between data governance and data management is a problem for you. I’ll also share some definitions of the terms and how to use them in stakeholder communications.
Download a copy of the definitions at Resources: Iron Carrot
Law Firm Data Governance Podcast
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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 talking about the difference between data governance and data management. I’ll explain why the confusion between data governance and data management is a problem for you.
I’ll also share some definitions of these terms and how to use them in stakeholder communications.
One of the most common misconceptions I encounter is the confusion between data management and data governance.
When you start thinking about a data governance implementation within your law firm, the people you talk to will ask or have asked you already something like, “but doesn’t the data management team do data governance?”.
This confusion is a real problem for you. Firstly, you have to recognise that even if you don’t hear this misconception out loud, you can guarantee it’s what many people are thinking when they hear ‘data governance’.
And of course, this is perfectly understandable. Many people consider management and governance to be synonymous terms. These terms are therefore really easily confused.
The real cause of confusion actually stems from data governance being a relatively new and poorly understood concept within the legal sector.
Some of the first data governance success stories in this space only started appearing in the press in about 2018, so it’s fair to say that data governance is not a widely adopted and understood term across the law sector.
Where there is confusion about data governance and whether someone is already delivering it or not, you will invariably experience blockading and a lack of stakeholder support.
Without a clear understanding of the difference between data governance and data management, it’s too easy for your stakeholders to point to the other teams around them as responsible for data governance.
Stakeholders will only buy into change when they understand the need for it and what the impact on their role is going to be.
If they think someone else is doing it already, they will never accept that they need to do something about it.
If your firm isn’t on the same page regarding data governance and how it benefits the entire firm, you’ll find it far more challenging to build out your data governance road map.
People will find a million and one creative ways to say no to you, especially if they don’t believe that what you’re doing is needed by them, either personally or for their teams.
So what’s the solution?
Well, firstly you need to define in clear terms what you and your team understand to be the difference between data governance and data management.
Getting to an agreed definition can sometimes be tricky, because everyone defines them in slightly different ways. It’s also going to depend on whether you’re speaking to someone from your IT team or not.
If you turn to the Internet for help, you’re going to find loads of vendors and professional membership organisations who’ve put out definitions and explanations of their own.
But the language used in these, and the roles implied in these suggestions don’t always fit within a law firm operational model. They usually reflect the shape of the big corporates and banks where these concepts originated.
The definitions you put out for data governance and data management need to be relevant for your firm.
They should reflect the language that the firm’s people use, and it’s always worth including some critical stakeholders in the development of your definitions to make sure that these definitions are going to land and resonate really well when you start communicating them.
Now, Iron Carrot and I have worked with several law firms over the last few years, and we know that it is always easier to have people comment on a draft than to try and start a discussion with a completely blank page.
So using our experiences, we’ve come up with a simple statement that you can adapt for your firm with that in mind.
‘Data management’ is the collective term for all the operational activities that collect, store, look after, protect, use, archive, or destroy internal and client data.
‘Data governance’ is a strategic cross functional coordination of data objectives, accountabilities and responsibilities to support transparency and clarity of predominantly the firms data in support of the firm strategy.
Now that’s a lot to say out loud, and it’s a lot to take in when you’re hearing someone read it to you.
So you can head over to the IronCarrot.com website and download a copy for yourself from our resources page for free.
In short this statement makes the distinction between data management and data governance really apparent. Data management is what gets done, and data governance is why and who is doing it.
So once you’ve got your agreed statement for your firm, the next step is to clarify that distinction in your communications with the whole firm, so that everyone understands and buys into the value that you and your data governance initiative bring.
In previous law firm engagements, we’ve achieved this by doing things like making the definitions the opening slide on a workshop, talking about it with key stakeholders, spelling it out clearly on the data governance Intranet page, including it as part of webinar training.
The outcome of delivering the definition through these forms of communication was resolving that confusion about the difference and also getting the traction and support throughout the firm because what you were trying to achieve had become clear.
Our top tip is that once you have agreed with some critical stakeholders on the definitions of data management and data governance, spend some time thinking about how these definitions will look to create consistency everywhere you use them.
This consistency and the repetition of seeing the definitions in different places will make it easier to understand and remember the difference.
Think about questions like, “Are they separate sentences with a space between them or are they one paragraph?”
“Are we going to use bold or small caps to highlight the term names or other parts of the sentences?”
“Is the text always going to be in black or grey or will we be using the firms brand colours?”
“Will this be text at all?”
“Are we going to create a graphic?”
All of these things help create a single coherent message so that every time people see your definitions.
They’re seeing and experiencing exactly the same thing.
Creating this familiarity helps your stakeholders gain confidence and trust in what you’re trying to achieve.
So to sum up then, an essential step to getting buy in and support for adopting data governance at your law firm is making sure that everyone is clear on the difference between data governance and data management.
It would be best to write the definitions you come up with in your firm’s language, using terms that resonate with your stakeholders.
Your definitions need to explain that data management is what gets done, and data governance is why and who is doing it.
If you go to the resources page on IronCarrot.com, you can download a copy of our ‘draft simple data management and data governance statement’ for you to use with your law firm.
Get in touch with us if you have any questions or feedback on that statement or anything else to do with data governance and law firms.
Next time, we’ll begin at the beginning by talking about the difference between a data owner and a data steward.