Data Governance Interview - Patrick Dewald

In this blog I interview Patrick Dewald.  Patrick is a Data Governance Architect and founding partner in Diaku.  He has a wealth of experience designing Master Data Management and Data Governance solutions for financial institutions. Patrick has been heading up Data Governance initiatives, designing and implementing group-wide data services from the ground up for the best part of 15 years. Patrick is recognised by his peers as a leader in the field of Data Governance.

How Long Have You Been Working In Data Governance?

My first Data Governance related project was in 2005. Actually reflecting on it, all of my data related projects before that had governance elements to them really, as, above all, doing better around data is a people and cultural challenge.

Some People View Data Governance As An Unusual Career Choice. Would You Mind Sharing How You Got Into This Area Of Work?

I was assigned to a reference data project that needed to gain visibility of hundreds of domain lists (e.g. currency, product types, client types etc.) and subsequently apply the appropriate level of governance to rationalise all the different flavours and versions. Formally agreeing roles and responsibilities on data was such a new and exciting thing and I felt we were really making a difference. Working across the functional silos was also great learning while at the same time allowing me to engage with many different people at different levels of seniority. I was hooked straight away.

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

I am of the opinion that Data Governance is not really about data, but about establishing the right environment for people to collaborate effectively on data. I believe the critical skills are firstly recognising what is holding people back from doing better around data and then persuading and motivating them to join a new and more joined up way of working. In short good analysis, orchestration and people skills are what makes an effective Data Governance professional.

You Started Off As A Data Governance Consultant. However, You Are Now A Data Governance Software Vendor. Can You Tell Me How That Transformation Came About?

Out of of pure necessity! There were no data governance tools out there which matched our approach of putting understanding and collaboration front and centre so we built one. Both Darius - the other founding partner in Diaku - and I have a software development background, albeit on the functional side. This allowed us to describe exactly what we needed and we were lucky enough to build up an ace development team to deliver the goods.

Although as a company the transition from pure consulting to consulting around a central solution took some adjusting, our clients responded very well. It is clear we are offering a coherent software and methodology package where each strengthens the other and the overall.

How does your software differ from other Data Governance tools?

Roles and responsibilities are at the core of any Data Governance solution. However, equally important is providing people with the right information to make sound decisions. In other words we need to make sure that the understanding about data and the business context in which it operates is clear. The broader that understanding, the more joined-up the decisions can be.

Our Axon product enables the organisation to collaboratively build up the understanding of its data by connecting it to other data items as well as relevant business facets e.g. business processes, policies, business areas, regulations etc. By doing this an integrated and reusable map is created that can be leveraged to understand the 'as-is' as well as drive optimisations.

In our experience a shared understanding grounded in the business reality is a powerful catalyst for changing behaviours towards a more collaborative and responsible way of working around data.

Is There A Company Or Industry You Would Particularly Like To Help Implement Data Governance For And Why?

Both Darius and I have a banking background but the problems we face and the solutions we offer are not specific to banking. Early in the new year we signed our first deal with a large pharmaceutical company and we are in discussions with firms in other industries, including telecommunications and manufacturing. We are really excited by the opportunity to apply the learning gained in one area to any of the others.

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

To do better around data lots of moving parts and stakeholder groups need to come together. It is not just about ownership or definitions or DQ or policies etc. so definitely go broad first and only once you’ve done that, go deep. At the same time don’t be too purist or rigid in the solution you define; the chances are the current state is messy and there is no easy way out of that, so you will need to work with and through it.

Finally I Wondered If You Could Share A Memorable Data Governance Experience?

A couple of years ago we were in the early stages of shaping up a data governance initiative for a large UK bank and we had organised a session with senior management from a given division along with some representatives from the group. The objective was to get a feel for how management  saw The Data Problem. Different viewpoints were articulated and discussed until someone from the group said “but I am the data owner” and all the division people’s faces went blank and the head of the division replied “What is your name again?”. We had a governance issue here!

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