How To Select The Right Data Governance Tool

There are many tools on the market now that can help you with your data governance initiative. In particular, there are numerous products that hold and manage your data glossary, data catalog and data dictionaries.  These have proved very popular and the number of players in the market has increased over the last few years.

If you are lucky enough to have the budget to purchase such a tool, please make sure that you’re well prepared so that you can choose the right vendor for your organization’s needs. If you select the wrong tool, it won’t help your Data Governance initiative and even worse it could distract from or even derail it!

To help you avoid making such a mistake I want to look at some of the common pitfalls in DG tool selection and the kind of questions you need to ask your vendors so that you are really clear on what you’re looking for before you embark on a tool selection process.

Let’s look at the most common pitfalls first.  The three main ones that I’ve seen are:

·      Little or no business user involvement

·      Unclear requirements

·      Overly complex initial implementation

Taking each of these in turn:

Firstly, there’s little or no business involvement early in the process. Many people wait until the tool is purchased and even being implemented before they involve business users.  In my experience, this is a huge problem and should be avoided at all costs.

I have seen a few implementations go wrong because the eventual business users were not involved in selection.  Think about it from their point of view.  They have not asked for such a tool, nor does it help them to do an existing task more quickly or easily.  So, when you come to implement your shiny new tool, the business users feel they’re having some IT tool foisted upon them. Generally, they do not react well and I can recall one instance when the whole implementation had to go back to the drawing board.  Once the business users understood what they needed to use the tool for, their requirements were vastly different from what had been delivered.

The second pitfall is being unclear on what you require of the tool. Often someone has latched on to the fact that a tool could help them and dived straight in and bought one without being really clear what they want the tool to do. Please make sure that you take the time to work out what your objective is from having the tool. Once you’ve worked that out, progress to defining some clear detailed requirements (just a requirement to have a data glossary is not sufficient).

Finally, another common pitfall is trying to make the initial implementation too complex. Some of the more established tools on the market have been around for a while and have evolved over time to provide a multitude of functionalities, all of which can facilitate and enable your data governance and data quality activities. But please, when you’re looking at selecting a vendor initially,  be very clear what you want a tool to do now. Also, consider what you definitely want it to do in the future.  Finally, you can make a “nice to have” list. Just make sure you take a thorough approach to determine clear requirements.

I’ve seen implementations of tools fail or the wrong tool selected because of vague or overly complex requirements (just because the tool does it, does not mean that your business really needs it).

Now we’ve looked at what the main pitfalls are. I wanted to share with you a few questions that would be useful to ask the vendors to ensure they’re a good fit for you and your data governance initiative. Since I’ve highlighted the need for objectives and clear requirements, the first question to ask them is, how does their tool meet your requirements.  Notice I say how does it meet… and not does it meet. If you ask “does your tool meet our requirements”, most vendors will say yes.

What you want to know is how.  Is it simply out of the box functionality that is ready to go or will there have to be manual workarounds, or even worse a lot of customization or configurations in the tool that may make future upgrades very difficult for you?

Secondly, I’d ask what implementation support will be given to you. You have to remember these tools are by their very nature, flexible, and you need to set them up in a way that works for your business. This means that you will need some support from the vendor. So make sure that you are very clear upfront about what kind of support they will be giving you.  Knowing what is and isn’t covered will prevent any nasty surprises in the future.

Thirdly, ask what training they provide for both you and the team implementing it. Perhaps they may even support training your business users on how to use their tool.  Definitely work out what training you want and ask what training is available.

Some final thoughts on how to choose the right Data Governance Tool for your organization:

I’ve said it already but please remember that to successfully choose the right tool for your company, it is absolutely vital that you are very clear on what you need the tool to do before starting a selection process.  Clear requirements should be the start of the process.

Make sure that you understand not only the support arrangements of the tool (as I mentioned in the last section) but also the upgrade path of the tool. I’ve come across more than one situation where an organization has customized a tool to such a degree that it is not possible to follow the upgrade path.  On one occasion they needed a project to redesign and implement a new data glossary to be able to upgrade and take advantage of the new functionality.

Lastly, I would say that when you’re working with vendors, going through workshops or maybe an RFP process you are going to meet a whole variety of personalities. Bear in mind that these are not the people that you will be working with if you choose and select this tool. Whether you like or dislike them, do not be swayed by the personalities.  They will not be around for the implementation, and the ongoing support will be provided by other people. So don’t let yourself be influenced just because you like or dislike their sales team!

Just remember that such tools can be great enablers to your data governance initiative, but they need to be put in place once your data governance initiative is already going so that you are very clear on what you want.

If you are currently looking at choosing a data governance tool why not book a call to discuss how I can support you through the process:

Nicola Askham

I am an independent data management consultant. My experience in coaching both regulatory and non-regulatory organisations to design and implement full data governance frameworks, is unique within the Data Governance field. The coaching approach enables organisations to self manage the process beyond initial implementation, leaving them with a sustainable data governance framework. My coaching and Data Governance training workshops ensures that your data governance framework is embedded as an integral part of your business as usual policy. The benefit for you is that once the framework is in place your organisation will be confident, competent and compliant. I have worked in Data Management for twelve years, initially for a leading UK Bank, before becoming a consultant at the beginning of 2009. Most recently I have spent most of my time delivering data governance for Solvency II, but I also run Data Governance Training courses and coach organisations to implement data governance themselves. I am a Director and Committee Member of DAMA UK (I lead Phase 1 of the Data Quality Dimensions Working Group), on the Expert Panel of Dataqualitypro.com and regularly write and present internationally on data governance best practice. I regularly present both at home and internationally. I presented at the MDM Summit, the Business Analysis Conference and the Collibra European User Group in London and Enterprise Data World, Enterprise Dataversity and the IDQ Summit in the US in 2014. I presented at the Experian Data Quality Insurance Summit in March, deliverd tutorials and presentations at the Data Governance Conference in London in May, at DGIQ in San Diego in June and presenting at the Stibo MDM event in Berlin in October. I will be presenting next at the IRMUK EDBI Conference in London in November. Specialties: Data Governance, Master Data Management, Data Quality

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