The Query: Insights on Breakthrough Government Performance

How can data ownership issues sink your BI initiative?

How can data ownership issues sink your BI initiative?



At Qlarion we’ve seen many government agency Business Intelligence (BI) programs become derailed due to “data ownership” issues: Simply put, the BI program owners did not ensure ahead of time that the data owners in another department or agency would be willing to share their data outside of their domain.

What Challenges do Public Sector Data Governance and Ownership Present?

At the core of public sector data governance issues are the often-conflicting roles and goals of two parties: the BI program owner and the data owner (also known as the custodian), particularly when they are part of separate organizations and programs.

The assumption that the BI program owner often makes is that if a dataset exists, then it is available. However, this doesn’t take into account whether the data owner—who is responsible for the integrity, accuracy and security of that data and is part of another agency or program that is funded from a different budget—is comfortable sharing the data.

Remember that in the public sector, data governance and ownership differ by program, in contrast to the commercial sector where there is typically a standard set of rules across the entire enterprise.

Worse still, data ownership and sharing issues tend to come up once the BI program is well underway, so they can severely impact the program owner’s ability to deliver.

How Can Public Sector Data Governance and Ownership Issues be Prevented?

The BI program owner and the data owner must remember that they share a critical mutual obligation to finding ways to work together. They must both maintain a “big picture” perspective and have a strong commitment to the overarching government mission of increasing efficiency by leveraging technology and finding new ways to use data.

Remember—both parties do not need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to addressing issues such as security concerns. There are proven methods, technologies and processes; while the solutions may not be simple, they are relatively straightforward.

Qlarion recommends several ways to avoid data problems related to data governance, ownership and sharing:

    • Start Early and Build a Relationship – Requesting data just before you’re ready to import or integrate it is too late. BI program owners must address data ownership issues as part of the initial planning process and start by reaching out to data owners so that there is plenty of time to discuss and agree on what data is needed and how it can be securely shared.Also, requesting data shouldn’t be considered a transaction, it should be part of a relationship—and it is incumbent on the BI program owner to initiate and nurture this relationship.
    • Clearly Explain How Your Program Addresses a Business Issue or Mission – The data owner will be more likely to buy in to a request if the BI program owner explains the bigger picture of why the data is needed and how it will help achieve a business mission. This isn’t about the data in a vacuum; it is about how your BI initiative will help improve effectiveness or efficiency by enabling faster, better-informed decisions.
    • Discuss the Data Owner’s Concerns and How Your Data Governance Policies Address Them – Data governance and ownership issues between departments, agencies and programs represent legitimate concerns regarding security, chain of custody and data integrity: Any discussion regarding taking data from one system and putting it into another needs to be thoughtful and comprehensive to prevent data from being compromised.The BI program owner needs to make a concerted effort to understand the data owner’s governance policies and concerns—then address each one by sharing the BI program’s data governance rules and adapting them as needed to encompass the data owner’s perspective.
    • Establish an MOU or LOA – Formalize the data sharing arrangement and data governance policies in a Memorandum of Understanding or Letter of Agreement that specifies what data is needed, what formats are included, what security precautions will be taken and the process for resolving disagreements.
    • Communicate Openly and Frequently – As with any business relationship, transparency and communications are critical to success. Try to avoid the reflexive “no” responses that crop up in siloed organizations with anti-sharing cultures.Open communications will help when unexpected issues come up—for example, when there is a disagreement on the source of a data integrity problem, the BI program owner and data owner can work together to resolve it, rather than wasting time arguing about which “side” caused the issue.

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