As my colleague, and fellow data professional Nicola Askham, wrote in her last blog. it can be a ‘real struggle to get your data governance initiative approved in the first place’. She sets out the reasons why, and recommendations on how to overcome them.

In this post, I’m going to dive into the detail of how to frame the benefits and risks within that business case.  These have been developed over many years of creating signature ready business cases as part of a wider Data Governance initiative or programme.

What are the benefit and risks that make the case?

Every organisation will recognise at least some of the benefits and risks in this table.

Benefit LensRisk Lens
Competitive advantage – insight driven and/or efficiency driven.Competitive disadvantage, loss of market share.
Differentiation – data ethics, insight, high quality trusted data, data privacy, etc.Opportunity loses and / or  inability to innovate.
Increased productivity across part / all of the organisationDuplication, re-work or start from scratch. Organisational inefficiency and / or lower productivity.
Reduced internal risk due mostly / entirely to trusted and evidenced decision making.Multiple ‘Data Fix’ factories either hidden or in plain sight. Late un-reconciled data cleansing.
Reduced external risk due to increasing confidence in data used externally.Increased regulatory cost and / or potential reputational damage.
Reduce risk of fines and or reputational damage.Financial penalties, further reputational damage, higher chance of audit.
Engaged staff and / or improved public profile.Poor job satisfaction and / or staff motivation. Higher staff attrition rate.
Improved customer experience.Customer dissatisfaction and / or a poor customer experience. Reputational damage.
Increased revenue from existing revenue streams.Revenue increases not matched by increases in operational cost. Or not realised at all.
Ability to create new revenue streams.Poor choices of new revenue streams. Inability to deliver against plans and targets.

Before getting too excited that these represent the golden ticket to approval, we must first apply your own organisational culture, context and aspirations to the table

Specifically which of these choices makes the better case:

  • Risk or benefit led approach?
  • Alignment to one objective or a myriad of objectives?
  • Internally focussed or externally focussed?
  • In house implementation or with external support?
  • Organisation wide or limited deployment?

Without extensive customisation, this table will not generate a compelling business case.  The first question is actually the last one you should answer, based on the responses to the remainder. Most organisations will take a blended approach between a risk and benefit lens.

Shouldn’t I choose everything?

That makes sense if you are appealing to the widest group of stakeholders. However, if we look back to GDPR projects, we can see this was almost always a risk-based approach with an extremely focussed set of deliverables. Whether that was of long-term benefit to the data asset is something I will return to in a later article.

I tell my customers any business case is likely to be operating in an environment where budgets have been allocated, priorities set, and dependant projects already started. Making the case for Data Governance within that environment is – as Nicola explained – very challenging.

The key is to be laser focussed on choosing the right benefits and risks that will resonate within your organisation. You need to be bold selecting only those which will lock in the success of identified senior stakeholders with the outcomes of your best practice data governance programme.

Is it really that hard to deliver best practice Data Governance?

I don’t think it is. Data Governance is often common sense hiding in plain sight. The hurdle is selling it in the first place. Organisation blindness to the cost of poor data quality often increases the higher up the management chain we go.

Business cases need to be visibly aligned to organisational success. ‘Doing better with data’ is not a compelling argument.

Where do you start?

That table is the starting point. You may be able to add to it (and I’d love to hear from you if you can!), but it is only a starting point.  Every organisation navigates from concept to approval in a different way.

Nicola and I have built a robust roadmap to support you on that journey. It’s the result of making the case for Data Governance over the last twenty years.

We see a well-managed, agile and respected data asset as foundational for the success of any organisation. This starts with explaining why you don’t have one in the first place.

To learn how more please get in touch.