Adopting a Lean approach to data governance

Data governance is fast becoming a priority on the business agenda.

February 19, 2013

By Gary Allemann, MD at Master Data Management

Data governance is fast becoming a priority on the business agenda, in light of regulations and guidelines such as King III, which outline recommendations for corporate governance of which data governance forms a critical part. However, data governance can be a challenging and complex task. Adopting a Lean approach to data governance can help businesses to eliminate wasteful data governance activity and promote efficiencies. An approach to lean data governance is discussed in a new whitepaper which can be downloaded here.

Lean methodology is defined by the MEP Lean Network as “a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement”. The Lean approach has been developed to identify and eliminate waste in business processes to improve efficiency and promote effectiveness. Gartner defines data governance as “The specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behaviour in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles, standards and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organisation to achieve its goals.”

From these definitions it is clear that adopting Lean methodology with regard to data governance will help to ensure that information can be used efficiently and effectively, through the elimination of wasteful practices and streamlining activities. There is a perfect synergy between Lean methodology and data governance, with core principles focusing on driving efficiencies, minimising waste and delivering robust, reliable and timely outputs.

When data management processes are not Lean, data often goes through many needless processes within systems and tools and is governed and managed inefficiently. The net result of this is that data becomes over processed and valuable data and insights may be lost. Accessibility may be compromised due to laborious data access processes, resulting in workarounds or the user continuing the working process without the aid of important data to drive the decision making process. Applying Lean methodology and thinking to data governance helps to avoid this type of scenario.

Key strategic decisions must be based on sound data. Data feeds into reports that facilitate decision-making at ground level and senior level. Data is used to determine resources, timing, product stock, response times – in fact, every metric that is crucial to monitor and ultimately enhance performance. Lean Data Governance is the optimisation of classic data governance. It delivers a robust framework and standards for sustainable change, process and information mapping and review to increase efficiency, functionality for tools and technology and value to the internal customer.

A Lean Data Governance approach consists of two interlinked aspects: waste prevention and waste elimination.

Waste prevention relies on five principles to prevent the occurrence of waste.

  1. Specify value as seen by the customer
  2. Identify and create value streams
  3. Make the value flow from source to customer
  4. Create pull
  5. Strive for perfection with continuous improvement

These five principles, when adopted as part of the Lean Data Governance approach, lay a foundation for streamlined governance processes and facilitate the prevention of unnecessary activity.

Using these principles, businesses are able to assess where waste may be occurring and implement steps to ensure that the waste does not occur in the future. The key is to understand what the business is trying to achieve and to identify the best way in which to achieve this.

Waste elimination is crucial for improving quality and efficiency within the organisation. This is an essential step to ensure that waste which is causing immediate risk, financial loss or significant decrease in quality can be identified and eliminated. When looking to eliminate waste, strategy, people and organisation, process, technology, and data management should all be subjected to a TIMWOOD (Transportation; Inventory; Motion; Waiting; Overproduction; Over-processing; Defects) assessment. This represents an in-depth assessment that enables the business to implement a Lean Data Governance approach

Delivering an actionable, impactful and lasting Lean Data Governance programme requires that strategy, people and organisation, processes, technology, and data management be explored in detail. TIMWOOD and the five principles of waste prevention need to be applied to each discipline individually to create a log of the current state, immediate risks and desired state. Based on this, a Lean Data Governance programme is developed with a list of actions and a robust methodology to deliver it.

For more information on adopting a Lean approach to data governance, download the white paper here.