I’m not a big fan of trends. I walked through Target yesterday in search of something (or nothing, who really knows) and saw the summer clothes for the trend-obsessed. Trust me when I tell you I will not be wearing abdomen freeing tank tops this summer. That was the 90s and that moment has passed for me. Trends in data are similar, I leave it to others until it either sticks or moves along like so many other trends (low rise bell bottoms, I’m looking at you). I’ve been around long enough to have considered at one point data literacy to be a trend. It had staying power though, and Gartner was recently quoted as saying it’s the second primary concern of CDOs (their first is everything else, but that’s the trouble with being a CDO).
In Disrupting Data Governance (shameless plug, please buy several copies) I shared that I see data literacy as a bellwether for the new/old shiny data governance programs. Data governance has been around for almost as long as the data warehouse but boy howdy have we struggled with it. It is the thing you love to hate, like reality TV or chocolate-covered fruit. Be that as it may, data governance is finally being given a makeover and is predicted to be a $5.1 billion industry by 2024.
Trends, Data Governance, and Data Literacy- Oh My.
So what do trends, data literacy, and data governance have in common? Good question.This week Serena and I sat down to Venn diagram out where data literacy and data governance overlapped but we stumbled a bit. If we all agree that data literacy, generally, “…is the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information” (Wikipedia) and Data Governance, generally, “…is the orchestration of people, processes, and technology to manage the company’s critical data assets by using roles, responsibilities, policies, and procedures to ensure the data is accurate, consistent, secure, and aligns with the overall company objectives” (Gartner). Then data literacy and data governance don’t have much in common except the word “data” but it isn’t that simple. I know from experience that organizations that do data governance well have some kind of education or training associated with data governance. Some ways of helping those working in data governance to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information…the needs are distinct from those that participate in data literacy though.
We considered that perhaps it was a 101 and a 201 scenario, as in data literacy is a 101 class and 201 is a course for the advanced. After I pulled a bit of a Don Draper (thought about it and walked away---not the part where he gulps down a bottle of brown liquor and blows up everyone else’s life with his careless eloquent words) it occurred to me that it is not a 101/201 problem. They are distinct efforts with their own goals. To me, data literacy intends to increase self-service. Data governance literacy intends to help your organization either become or maintain its data-driven status. Data literacy is about improving individual skillsets for the great good and data governance literacy is about the greater good. Will individual skillsets be improved if data governance literacy is successful? Sure, but that’s a by-product, not the end goal.
“Data governance literacy is the ability to define data, the parameters of data quality, understand the provenance of the data, and champion protection to serve as a catalyst in a data-driven organization.” Moxy Analytics
The goal of data governance literacy is to ensure that your data owners, data stewards, and others that work in data governance have the skills they need to define data, set parameters, understand lineage (and its implications), and champion protection. Even if you’ve worked as a data analyst these functions are often distinct from most other activities in data.
Check out our data literacy E-book for more on this, available under the "Free Stuff" portion of our site.
Now before you roll your eyes and express frustration at yet another damn thing you must do, successful data governance programs have been doing this all along. It is the function of training staff to be successful in data governance. Now, we have a name and definition for it. But what we also have is an understanding that it is something that you should be doing if you have a data governance program. If you’ve wondered why you have struggled to be successful with data governance and have followed all the better practices but still can’t seem to get where you’re going, and don’t have something that supports data governance literacy, now you know why you’re not gaining traction.
What are the next steps? Assess what you do have that can serve as part of a data governance literacy program. Ask your data stewards what resources would be beneficial. And subscribe here to learn more about data governance, agile data governance, and data governance literacy.
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