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Writing a Data Governance Charter – Statement of Intent

A data governance charter is a statement of intent for the organization to follow as it designs and implements its data governance program

Many companies are discovering a problem when they attempt to integrate separate systems into an enterprise view of data – poor data quality.  This discovery often leads to the development of a data governance program to create a “single version of the truth” and to present clean and reliable data to all who use it within the organization, and, where appropriate, to customers and other consumers of data external to the organization.

A successful data governance program offers a way to manage corporate data, providing reliable, accurate, trustworthy sets of data; giving the organization a solid, reliable foundation for making business decisions.  The development of a successful data governance effort can be viewed as a series of projects, each designed to bring order and understanding to the data captured and used across the organization. These projects may be aligned by business unit, by application set, by other parameters – but all data governance efforts should begin with a program vision and common goals.

All good programs begin with a vision, the articulation of the desired state to be achieved by the successful efforts of the project team(s).  After having established the proper vision, a data governance council would write its charter, which is the statement of intent for the data governance program. The charter states the goals, objectives, purpose and desired results that will come from the enterprise data governance work. It is a high-level document and does not contain details, but it presents the reasons for embarking on the data governance program, what the goals of the program are and what results are expected to be attained over a period of time.

Based on the data governance program vision statement, a charter does not change throughout the life cycle, regardless of the type of program.  A charter is created at the beginning of the effort, directly following the creation and approval of the program’s vision, taking a strategic view of the objectives and anticipated results.  A charter is approved by the key project stakeholders, and is available for reference throughout the life cycle of the effort.

Usually one or two pages long, a data governance charter should state clearly the need to raise awareness of data quality, its real importance to the organization and some goals that will be realized by the establishment of a permanent data governance effort.  A charter is one of the first steps in any formal project methodology (Six Sigma, TQM, etc.) and can serve as the foundation for all project-oriented activities if the vision / purpose / goals and results are stated clearly and succinctly.

The parts of a Data Governance Charter are:

  • Program Title
  • Business Problem Statement
  • Program Goals list (5 maximum, usually 3 minimum)
  • Program Expected Results
  • Program Start Date
  • Program Manager Name and Title

The charter serves as an “announcement” to the audience (all stakeholders and other interested parties) that this effort is beginning, that it has active support from senior management, and which resources will be assigned to fulfill the goals and solve the problems stated in the charter.  As an initial document in the data governance effort, the charter serves as foundation for the creation of the Program Scope document, a much longer and more detailed presentation of the problem, objectives, risks, resources and activities that establishing a data governance initiative will require.

An example of a Data Governance Program Charter could look like this:

  • Program Title– World Risk Insurance Data Governance Program
  • Business Problem Statement– World Risk Insurance currently has applications that serve its 12 lines of business with underwriting, claims and financial applications for each business line.  These data sources feed an enterprise data warehouse and much of the data targeted for the data warehouse is not accurate or complete.  As a result, decisions made based on data from the data warehouse may not have a solid foundation.  Most of the data errors in the warehouse can be traced to problems in the source systems, and the errors in data include metadata errors (wrong data type, no clear data definition, wrong data source, incorrect algorithm or calculation, etc.) as well as incorrect or incomplete instances of data.  To realize the value of an enterprise data warehouse, World Risk Insurance must have accurate and complete source data, and full business data definitions.
  • Program Goals
    • Development of business unit ownership and responsibility for data quality
    • Development of complete and accurate meta data for all source systems and for the data warehouse and data marts
    • Creation of enterprise processes for the governance of data and metadata across World Risk Insurance
    • Creation of business and technical steward roles and awareness of the critical responsibility these roles hold
  • Program Expected Results– With the development and implementation of an enterprise Data Governance Program for World Risk Insurance, the following results are expected:
    • Sustained awareness of business unit ownership and responsibility for data quality in source systems and data warehouse and data marts
    • Creation of data steward roles, development of sustained and robust data stewardship teams and an enterprise data governance council
    • Active participation in data governance efforts from all areas of the company (business units, IT, operational units such as finance and human resources)
    • Development and implementation of data governance and data stewardship processes and training
  • Program Start Date– July 1, 2018
  • Program Manager Name and Title– John Doe, Enterprise Data Management Director

Conclusion

A data governance program charter is an essential document for creating a sustainable enterprise data governance program.  It serves as one of the foundational artifacts that establishes the program’s needs, goals, and expected results, clearly and succinctly.

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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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