Oakland Group

What are the benefits of working with a data governance consultancy?

In this blog, Oakland’s Andrew Sharp talks to Terri Linnet Bickford, one of Oakland’s senior data governance consultants, about the advantages of working with an external provider.

They talk about the benefits of having access to a team of experts, the value of a data governance maturity assessment, and the importance of culture in establishing effective data governance.

So Terri, what always goes through my mind is why would you choose to work with a data consultancy versus doing the work in-house?

Great question, Andrew, so the biggest advantage of working with a data consultancy like Oakland is the wealth of experience you gain. When working in-house, you may only have a small team, or I’ve worked in organisations where I have been the only data governance person relied upon to establish governance, making things challenging, to say the least. On the other hand, bringing in a consultancy means you have access to an entire team’s expertise, gained from many different projects, which means you’re not just bringing in one person, but a whole team of knowledgeable professionals. For instance, bringing in an expert in data architecture can be hugely beneficial, when looking at how you’d like to use your data to drive data analytics and machine learning further down the line. A consultancy can share use cases and client testimonials to demonstrate where they have helped deliver effective data governance for organisations that look a lot like yours.

But it’s not just about the quantity of experience, it’s also about the fresh perspective a consultancy can bring. When you’re working in a role, it’s easy to become blinkered and miss the bigger picture. By bringing in a consultancy, you get a new perspective on the organisation as a whole and can identify gaps and areas for improvement that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

I’ve also found that a consultancy team can engage with the rest of the organisation differently than an in-house team might. They aren’t bogged down with day-to-day operations, so they can focus on the bigger picture and collaborate with various teams to develop and implement effective data management strategies helping you to drive better data-driven decision-making.

Thanks, Terri, there are some really great insights there. So, what are some of the pain points people need to look out  for when considering hiring a consultancy?

It can be really hard knowing where to start with data governance. It’s not all about data governance frameworks! I always find that looking for recurring data problems, such as a lack of trust in the data, data quality issues, or a lack of data sharing across different departments, is a good place to start. Very often governance is driven by regulatory compliance rather than being seen as adding business value to your enterprise data organisation.

Here at Oakland, we generally start with a data maturity assessment, which helps you to identify the right place to start. By doing this, you can get a clear picture of your current state, what needs to be improved, and what steps you need to take next.

To ensure that your organisation is making the most of its valuable data, there are important factors to consider that the data maturity assessment can help with, such as data literacy, education, and building a culture that supports good governance processes. Data governance is not a destination but a journey that requires constant revaluations and improvement as people and data evolve. As organisations create more and more data, it is necessary to keep checking the maturity levels of their data governance and literacy and continuously engage with your stakeholders so that they understand that data is an asset that adds value to the organisation.

The biggest shift I have seen in the past few years is that the chief data officer role has driven a step change in helping organisations with their risk management and recognising what is ‘right data’ and how that data can be used to improve operational issues. The data maturity assessment really helps to determine where you are on that journey and where improvements are needed.

One of the things I’ve come across repeatedly is how you get people to understand its importance. In different organisations, different roles may be more or less engaged with data governance. That is why it is so important to identify the right stakeholders. This is where a data consultancy can be really helpful with influencing your decision makers and change management, building roadmaps, and bringing their experience of working with different organisations to help you get senior leadership on board with the process, which can be half the battle. This is especially important because data governance is a foundational building activity, and it’s crucial to have buy-in from all levels of the organisation otherwise, it is very difficult to make a success of your data governance programme.

To be effective, data governance cannot operate in isolation. It is important that everyone who handles data in your organisation understands how their actions impact other areas of the business. I’ve seen organisations who have set up a central data governance function without giving it the authority or connectively to ensure the data is managed well throughout the organisation. This results in the data governance team constantly fixing problems after the fact instead of addressing the root causes and preventing issues from happening in the first place.

We talk a lot about data ownership, can you tell me why you think it is so important?

Ownership is a key concept in data governance, and a strong ownership model is really important. This involves articulating the roles and responsibilities of the people who will help drive your data agenda across the whole organisation, not just in siloed teams. A consultancy can help build the skills, behaviours, and capabilities to create data stewardship roles which support data governance within your organisation.

What other services can a consultancy help with Terri?

Data quality assessments are also important, as is understanding the materiality of poor data and how data governance integrates with other aspects of your organisation such as data analytics, data glossaries, and data dictionaries.

It’s also essential to measure the value and return on investment of data governance. This requires benchmarking and understanding the current state of your organisation, which a consultancy can certainly help with. They will have worked with similar challenges and will be able to help you to build the foundations for strong data governance by helping you to create a culture that values its data.

So Terri how can Oakland help?

Oakland have a team of incredibly knowledgeable experts who are able to support with both strategic and implementation of data governance. Cross functional teams that work together on projects, including governance, platform architecture, target operating models, and data strategy. They can focus on the end to end data journey with a team of technically excellent people who are passionate about their area of expertise and have a long track record of delivering successful projects and engaging clients. The Oakland website is a great resource with lots of helpful content including blog posts, working guides and case studies. We run regular webinars and podcasts and the Oakland LinkedIn page is the best place to see what we have coming up.

Andrew Sharp is a Principal Data Governance Consultant at The Oakland Group