Puzzling Over The Pieces?

Data Governance puzzle pieces

Have you ever found yourself trying to implement a data governance programme on its second or maybe even third attempt? Data governance initiatives are not the easiest thing to implement even when you're starting to design and implement the whole framework from scratch, let alone after one or more failed attempts.

Dealing with such a challenge was the topic of my presentation at the MDM Summit and Data Governance Conference in London last month and it proved to be a fun session (which may have had something to do with the fact that real jigsaw puzzles were involved).

The analogy of a second (or subsequent) attempt at a data governance initiative being like a jigsaw puzzle has occurred to me on a number of occasions over the past few years. When you start puzzling over the pieces of what your predecessor has done, it's very difficult to ascertain what they were trying to achieve if you don't have the picture of what they were aiming for.

A data governance framework is made up of many pieces, however many of them offer limited value unless the complete framework is in place. Georges Perec sums this up beautifully in the following quote from Life A Users Manual:

"[Jigsaw] pieces are readable, taking on a sense, only when assembled; in isolation, a puzzle piece means nothing – just an impossible question, an opaque challenge."

If you don't have the picture of what you're aiming for, it is unlikely that you will be able to successfully turn an ailing data governance initiative around. So my advice to you, is never underestimate the importance of the picture. This being something I strongly believe in. I may have mentioned it once or twice in the past!

If you are currently working on a second or third attempt, the first thing you must do is to find the picture. If you are lucky enough to locate it, your second step is to check that it's correct. Do not assume that, just because it exists, it is necessarily the right thing to be aiming for. Alternatively you may be in a situation where you have to go fact finding in order to draw your own picture.

Whether you are lucky enough to already have the picture of what you're aiming for, or if you have to create one yourself, it is important to remember that you will need two pictures. One to illustrate the current situation and one showing the target end state. Having both of these will enable you to work out the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Once you have identified the gaps you're in a good position to create a plan to address them. As to how you go about doing that? Well that will take a lot longer than one short blog to address, but suffice to say it involves all the skills, techniques and approaches that I usually blog about. Although in the case of a second or third attempt, stakeholder management and good communications become even more important than usual.

I hope that the jigsaw analogy resonates and helps you. I certainly had great feedback from the presentation and I am very pleased to have been asked to repeat the presentation at the Stibo Systems Master Data Management event in London in October this year – perhaps I will see some of you there?


My free report reveals why companies struggle to successfully implement data governance. Discover how to quickly get you data governance initiative on track by downloading this free report