Data Governance Interview - Sunil Soares

For this Data Governance Interview I am delighted that Sunil Soares agreed to answer my questions. Sunil is the founder and managing partner of Information Asset, LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations build out their data governance programs. Prior to this role, Sunil was the Director of Information Governance at IBM, and worked with clients across six continents and multiple industries. Sunil is the author of multiple books including The IBM Data Governance Unified Process, Selling Information Governance to the Business and Big Data Governance.

How long have you been working in Data Governance?

A really long time and it feels even longer. When I started out, Data Governance was a part-time job for many practitioners. It has now transitioned to a full-time role for most practitioners. There are conferences dedicated to Data Governance and vendors have released mature tools.

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

I got into it from the software vendor perspective. My previous employer offered a number of great software tools. However, we needed to wrapper the people and process methodologies around these tools to ensure that our clients were successful. We started out doing workshops, then consulting engagements. And it became less about the tools and more about the people and process.

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

Information Asset's has a three-pronged approach to Data Governance:

  1. People and Process, including policies, standards, dashboards to derive maximum value quickly
  2. Industry-orientation, we have developed templates for Data Governance for specific industries
  3. Software tools

We try to adopt a practical approach to Data Governance and remove a lot of the noise associated with the implementation.

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

I am a bit biased because I have my own books. Also, John Ladley has some excellent books as well.

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

The biggest challenge with a Data Governance implementation is lack of business buy-in. And it often boils down to a lack of clarity on the business problem. If you don't understand the business problem, then it is highly unlikely that you have business buy-in and your Data Governance program will fail. In my first book on The IBM Data Governance Unified Process, I listed a set of steps to implement Data Governance. Step 1 was "Identify Business Problem."

Is there a company or industry you would particularly like to help implement Data Governance for and why?

I believe that the Information Services industry really needs Data Governance. These companies sell information for a living. The good news is that many of these companies are now instituting formal Data Governance programs.

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

Define the Business Problem in a very precise manner. Then define your target data domains and Critical Data Elements. In short, focus on the "Data" in "Data Governance."

Finally I wondered if you could share a memorable data governance experience?

I was talking about Data Governance to a large institution in a country that does not have a strong democratic tradition. I was talking about the RACI approach where data producers and data consumers are not the same. After an hour, the team lead turned to me and said, "In our company, departments do not share their data because we don't trust each other. This Data Governance stuff won't work for us. Can you show us your tools?"


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