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Developing a Mission for Data Governance

Every effective data governance program develops and maintains a mission statement to provide focus for the program’s objectives.

Just as organizations require a vision for data governance it is important to have a mission for the data governance program as well.  Mission and vision statements are complementary and not synonymous.

Definition of Mission

Turning to the definitions of “mission” in Merriam-Webster the reader finds:  specific task with which a person or a group is charged; a pre-established and often self-imposed objective or purpose.  A mission for data governance would include the development of objectives to be achieved by the act of governing data and information. Many organizations see the mission as the “call to action” or “charge” to be implemented. Mission statements frequently make the companion vision statement operative.  For a successful initiative, mission statements must be clear, dynamic, and reflect the vision they are supposed to support.

Mission Supports Vision

Once the organization has created and communicated its vision for data governance, it becomes necessary to articulate how this vision will be realized, both in the strategic view (goals) and in the tactical view (objectives). So, the second step in a successful data governance effort is the development of a mission statement for data governance that embodies the organization’s vision and is seen as a call to action or ways the objectives of the program will be realized.  Using the same techniques that were used in creating the vision (skills of a specialist in data governance and using the techniques of facilitation) the senior team produces a mission statement for the enterprise data governance program.  The statement should be coordinated to produce a common understanding of what the organization wishes to accomplish with data governance and some impressions of how the vision will be realized.

Compared to a vision statement, which is an image of the desired future, the mission statement is a clear and compelling declaration that focuses people’s efforts. This development is done in the planning process, as is the creation of a vision statement, and it should not be overlooked or shortened. Several approaches can be useful to defining a mission statement:

  • Targeting: set a clear, definable target and aim for it (for data, what is the target the organization wishes to reach?)
  • Common Enemy: create a goal focused on defeating a common enemy (for data, the “enemy” may be data ignorance, data apathy, poor data quality) or common purpose
  • Role Model: select a well-known success and emulate it (for data, are there organizations that manage / govern data well? If so, how can we be more like them?)

Example data governance Vision and Mission Statements

  • Vision:  To ensure world-class integrity and understanding of this organization’s information policies, practices, processes, and standards to support the organization, its customers, and its partners in the achievement of their business objectives.
  • Mission:  Powering innovation through world-class data governance of this organization’s information assets so they are proactively and efficiently managed throughout the enterprise to secure their accountability, meaning, and accuracy.

Mission and Vision Statements as Communications

Mission and vision statements form the foundation of communication concerning the data governance initiatives.  This communication should be directed at every person responsible for creating, managing or using any data. A mission statement serves to define the expected efforts for the data governance programs, so that employees focus both on their roles within the company, and on their relationship with data and information.  A well-crafted mission statement helps communicate the goal toward greater unity of purpose throughout the company.  This is one reason that many companies develop vision and mission statements for all strategic initiatives such as data governance.  In addition, a mission statement may be incorporated into advertising messages, annual reports, and all other marketing vehicles.  Periodic refinement of the mission is an important step, and is usually done when the vision is refined, making it possible for the enterprise to follow the best data governance path for their future.

Conclusion

Articulated and communicated well, a mission statement should give everyone in the organization a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose for the data governance program.  Far from being “exercises,” the development of a mission statement can give substance to the start of a data governance program.

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Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., CDMP

Anne Marie Smith, Ph.D., CDMP is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise data management, data governance, enterprise data architecture and data warehousing. Dr. Smith is VP of Education and Chief Methodologist of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc. (EWS), a Chicago-based enterprise data management consultancy dedicated to providing clients with best-in-class solutions. Author of numerous articles and a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP), Dr. Smith is also a well-known speaker in her areas of expertise at conferences and symposia.

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