Data Goblins And Hobgoblins

Continuing my Data Governance Fairy Stories theme, in this blog I'm going to examine two further characters which you may have come across.  Whereas Data Fairies are helpful (but don't forget that their existence, if you believe in them, doesn't absolve you of the responsibility to understand how your data really does get from A to B), Data Goblins and Data Hobgoblins are troublesome creatures and whether you believe in them or not, they represent a very real threat to your data governance and data quality initiatives.

To begin with it is important to understand the differences between the two: a goblin is an evil and mischievous creature whereas a hobgoblin is typically a friendly but troublesome creature. (The most commonly known hobgoblin is the character Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.)

The Data breeds of these faerie creatures are in fact analogous to your passive and aggressive resistor personalities which you will come across in any kind of organisational or cultural change, but these ones are found most frequently in Data Governance and Data Quality tales.

Think of Data Goblins as your aggressive resistors, they don't want to change how they manage their data. They probably have plenty to say about what is wrong with it, but it is likely to be their opinion that it is everyone else's fault that the data is wrong and therefore they are unwilling to take on any responsibility for getting it right and proactively managing the data.  Encounters with Data Goblins can be very tense and challenging.

Data Hobgoblins are your passive resistors, usually much more pleasant individuals to deal with, but don't be fooled they are more dangerous than their more volatile cousins, because they don't give you any initial indications of their resistance.  A nodding head and a smile in a meeting may fool you into believing that they understand and sign up to what you want them to do, but they may not follow this up with any action. Even worse they may undertake some activity which is the opposite of what is needed.

It is therefore vitally important at all stages in your data governance story that you remember the importance of identifying and engaging your stakeholders. You must remember from the very start that you need to establish a clear understanding of the current status of your relationship with all the characters involved and have a plan in place to manage them to get the results you need. Don’t forget to regularly review the status of those relationships and amend your plans if necessary.

As with every good fairy story, your quest to implement data governance will be fraught with challenges, twists and turns. Just make sure that you identify your data goblins and hobgoblins early on so that they don’t succeed in their aim of obstructing your initiative.

Be alert to them and always remember Puck’s words in A Midsummer Night’s Dream ” Up and down, up and down, I will lead them up and down. I am feared in field and town. Goblin lead them up and down.”


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