How to build successful relationships for data governance

Data Security Governance Manager, Nisha Praveen, talks about the role of stakeholders in creating buy-in and building your data governance programme:

Nisha Praveen
Apr 1 · 4 min read
Photo by Headway on Unsplash

I work in data, specifically in the governance space. My wider team looks after all the governance of operational activities related to data security, privacy and quality. Up until someone coined data as the new oil, this was a field of the so-called data nerds and caffeine-addicted data analysts.

Today data and governance teams are one of the most interactive teams in our organization. We have a say at the table - a voice in all key customer-oriented projects. This didn’t happen overnight. A lot of thought and effort has gone in to reaching this point where data and governance teams are called upon as decision makers in key projects to offer insight as well as expertise on the usage, storage and safety of that data. And a large part of this is a result of building successful relationships within teams and the wider business.

The Wild West of building relationships

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A few weeks back, I was invited to give a talk on what I do in my job and how I do it. It was easier to talk about what I do but how I do it was more challenging.

Standing in front of my camera practicing the talk, I wondered: “ Am I going to make a fool out of myself talking about something that is common knowledge?”

As it was an online meetup, the vibe I got from the audience was different to face-to-face but I could, nevertheless, sense and see that most of them were nodding along in agreement. That made me realize this is a topic that isn’t discussed enough and something they don’t teach in management classes! It’s what I call a ‘learn as you go experience’.

The four W’s of building relationships in data governance

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Based on the response from the meetup, I felt now would be a good point to add an excerpt from my presentation — what I describe as the four W’s in building relations. They also encompass many of the FAQs I receive on this subject.

Why take the effort to build relations?

Yes, it will — eventually. But building relationships in whatever role you are in (especially data governance) is the most efficient way to understand the essence of your role and the value derived from it. It’s the road to highlighting the importance of the governance team, thereby establishing the right cultural mindset and creating buy-in.

We need to understand that our stakeholders are all people who may find some areas of data governance unfamiliar or indigestible. The secret to the success of a governance program lies in making it into bitesize chunks so that everyone understands what data governance is, what the benefits are and what they should look out for. I would call this a slow but steady means to gaining buy-in from key stakeholders and support from your senior management team and exec board.

Who to build relations with?

When should I start thinking about building these relations?

If you are starting your data governance journey, look beyond obvious organizational contacts, and reach out to others who work in the same domain. It’s important to network and know from others how their business transformed and gained from implementing a good data governance program.

If you have already adopted one, good job! Don’t forget to share the learnings and practices so that you can shine the light on how your journey was and lend others a helping hand.

What does it take to build these relations?

Build and maintain!

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

We hear a lot about building your career, building your network, building your profile etc. In my eyes, it’s the same for a successful data governance program. You need to build this relationship of trust within your internal teams and between the different teams in your organization.

Be proactive and make it a point to build at least one new relationship every week and reap the benefits of building a connected organization. You don’t need to be physically present to build that relationship, it’s your mental presence that matters. Most importantly, once you have built those relationships, make an effort to maintain them! Put time aside to grab a coffee, schedule regular sessions to catch up.

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