For an IT or business manager, pitching a data governance project to the decision makers can be a daunting prospect. Not only can it be difficult to communicate the need for such a project to those who don’t see problematic data every day, but there’s also a danger that executives won’t see how data governance will support their own priorities.
This can lead to a failure to gain support for the programme. It’s essential, then, to ensure that the pitch addresses data governance in the right way, to the right people, at the right time.
There’s no template - the most important thing is to meet the business “where it is”. Pre-prepared justifications for data governance are not enough without being tied to the business’s current challenges. Most pitches that fail are the result of failing to align the programme with the priorities of the business.
A good question to ask is, “how do I relate this to my business?” Too often, the pitch stops with, “what is data governance?” It may include a few bullet points about why the company needs data governance, but few pitches actually get around to describing how it will help the organisation. Management needs to see how it will work and what their involvement will be. Otherwise it’s not a pitch – it’s a training session.
Another vital question to ask is, “if we don’t fix this now, will it be harder in the future?” This can highlight some important messages for selling a data governance project within the business. The key here is mapping d to the business problem and exposing any gaps in current capabilities. From here, it’s easy to explain the “cost” of not doing data governance. This is particularly critical when the supporting an established compliance initiative. The message needs to be: “Let’s do it now in the context of Project X, Y and Z and prove the value of doing so.”
One of the most important considerations is involving the correct people. There is no established list of the job titles to approach with the data governance message, but there are some general principles to bear in mind. If you are aiming for a single view of suppliers, you’ll need to engage the organisation’s procurement executives, for example. If it’s a Solvency II project, you’ll need representatives from risk, compliance and so on.
It typically works well to include the chief marketing officer and the chief financial officer, because they both work in data-intensive departments. Arguably, neither marketing nor finance can really be effective without the ability to analyse and use accurate information, but often, neither group has put the rigour around data governance - they’ve relied on IT to do that for them. With a little further discussion about the benefits, these two departments can be strong backers for the programme.
Another critical question is, “are we ready for data governance?” Often, the pitch is made too early, before the need for the project is clear. And all too often, the pitch is made before there is an understanding of who in the organisation will need to participate. By the time a serious need is identified, everyone believes the data governance discussion is over, and their energy is focused elsewhere.
The most appropriate time for data governance is when the business priorities are driving collaboration across parts or the whole of your organisation. Bearing these key principles in mind will help data managers to ensure that their pitch speaks to the decision maker in a way that fits their priorities and highlights the best possible impact.