Data Governance Interview - Gary Allemann

Gary Allemann kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blog and shares valuable advice for all those working in Data Governance:

How would you describe yourself and your data management experience?

I have been passionate about data since long before it was fashionable – delivering niche solutions for data quality, master data management and data governance for more than ten years. I am fortunate to have been exposed to a range of industries – including financial services, mining, telecommunications and government – as this allows me to put data issues into business context.

I started my Data Quality Matters blog to try and share practical ideas and approaches for taking data quality and data governance into business. Hopefully it is a valuable resource for others.

How long have you been working in Data Governance?

I have been working in the data quality space since about 2000. Data Governance as a formal function began to emerge in South Africa in around 2007 and it is a logical extension to our data quality and MDM work

Some people view Data Governance as an unusual career choice, would you mind sharing how you got into this area of work?

I started working with data with Siebel in the late 1990’s. We were selling the ideal of the “single view of the customer” but, when you looked at the contact and account data stored in the CRM system it was clear that the ideal was not being delivered. Poor data quality and some interesting design choices (we had seven instances of Siebel across various business units) meant that we could not achieve the goal.

This was the Eureka moment – applications do not solve business problems without the correct data.

What characteristics do you have that make you successful at Data Governance and why?

 I think my principle strengths are that I am pragmatic, and that I am able to communicate.

In many cases, data governance becomes very theoretical. Anybody can go onto the Internet and pull down templates for data governance structures, processes,  roles, etc.

Making these things fit the organization are the real challenge. Each organization is different, and the as the culture of the organization matures the data governance approach may need to adapt. So it becomes a journey – one step at a time.

Communication is critical. The change process means that different stakeholders may need to be engaged in different ways. Wins must be promoted, and mistakes and there will be mistakes) must be managed so that they are not blown out of proportion. The data governance journey is a sales process.

Are there any particular books or resources that you would recommend as useful support for those starting out in Data Governance?

For formal education in data governance, data stewardship and related functions I am a big fan of the material offered by It allows beginners to get a sound foundation in data management principles, and offers tips and techniques to enhance the skills of more experienced staff.

Otherwise there is a host of less formal material available on line. often has interesting perspectives, as do various LinkedIn communities. Specialist vendors, like Collibra, bring practical insights via whitepapers, blogs and webinars.

What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced in a Data Governance implementation?

The isolationist view – by which I mean that data governance is used as a vehicle to push the agenda of one stakeholder without involving or supporting others.

This may be an IT centric view, for example to promote a particular technical approach to master data management that business has not bought into. Or it may be an agenda of a particular business project – for example, when data governance is strongly driven by compliance projects the policies may not seem sensible for customer facing staff.

This kind of “one sided” view can often alienate other role players who feel ignored – a massive risk to the whole data governance initiative. While these kind of initiatives can be a starting point for data governance the bigger picture should always be kept in mind.

Finally what single piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in Data Governance?

Don’ t try to force it and don’t focus on a single stakeholder’s problems. Data governance relies on support from all stakeholders – you get that by giving each of them value.


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