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Data Governance Assessment

Before data governance can begin at an organization it is critical to assess where the organization is currently in terms of data governance. This necessitates the need for a data governance assessment. The assessment helps an organization to figure out where to begin by identifying challenges and prioritizing what needs to be addressed. In particular, it is common for there to be five steps in this process as shown below.

  1. Identify data sources and stakeholders
  2.  Interview stakeholders
  3.  Determine current capabilities
  4.  Document the current state and target state
  5.  Analyze gaps and prioritize

We will look at each of these steps below.

Identify Data Sources and Stakeholders

Step one involves determining what data is used within the organization and the users or stakeholders of this data. Essentially, you are trying to determine…

  • What data is out there?
  •  Who uses it?
  •  Who produces it?
  •  Who protects it?
  •  Who is responsible for it?

Answering these questions also provides insights into what roles in relation to data governance are already being fulfilled at least implicitly and which roles need to be added to the organization. At most organizations at least some of these questions have answers and there are people responsible for many roles. The purpose here is not only to get this information but also to make people aware of the roles they are fulfilling from a data governance perspective.


Interview Stakeholders

Step two involves interviewing stakeholders. Once it is clear who is associated with data in the organization it is time to reach out to these people. You want to develop questions to ask stakeholders in order to inform you about what issues to address in relation to data governance.

An easy way to do this is to develop questions that address the pillars of data governance. The pillars are…

  • Ownership & accountability
  •  Data quality
  •  Data protection and privacy
  •  Data management
  •  Data use

Below are some sample questions based on the pillars above.

  • How do you know your data is of high quality
  •  What needs to be done to improve data quality
  •  How is data protected from misuse and loss
  •  How is metadata handle
  •  What concerns do you have related to data
  •  What policies are there now related to data
  •  What roles are there in relation to data
  •  How is data used here

It may be necessary to address all or some of these pillars when conducting the assessment. The benefit of these pillars is they provide a starting point in which you can shape your own interview questions. In terms of the interview, it is up to each organization to determine what is best for data collection. Maybe a survey works or perhaps semi-structured interviews or focus groups. The actual research part of this process is beyond the scope of this interview.

Determine Current Capabilities

Step three involves determining the current capabilities of the organization in terms of data governance. Often this can be done by looking at the stakeholder interviews and comparing what they said to a rating scale. For example, the DCAM rating scale has six levels of data governance competence as shown below.

  1. Non-initiated-No governance happening
  2.  Conceptual-Aware of data governance and planning
  3.  Developmental-Engaged in developing a plan
  4.  Defined-PLan approved
  5.  Achieved-Plann implemented and enforced
  6.  Enhanced-Plan a part of the culture and updated regularly

Determining the current capabilities is a subjective process. However, it needs to be done in order to determine the next steps in bringing data governance along in an organization.

Document Current State and Target State

Step four involves determining the current state and determining what the target state is. Again, this will be based on what was learned in the stakeholder interviews. What you will do is report what the stakeholders said in the interviews based on the pillars of data governance. It is not necessary to use the pillars but it does provide a convenient way to organize the data without having to develop your own way of classifying the results.

Once the current state is defined it is now time to determine what the organization should be striving for in the future and this is called the target state. The target state is the direction the organization is heading within a given timeframe. It is up to the data governance team to determine this and how it is done will vary. The main point is to make sure not to try and address too many issues at once and save some for the next cycle.

Analyze and Prioritize

The final step is to analyze and prioritize. This step involves performing a gap analysis to determine solutions that will solve the issues found in the previous step. In addition, it is also important to prioritize which gaps to address first.

Another part of this step is sharing recommendations and soliciting feedback. Provide insights into which direction the organization can go to improve its data governance and allow stakeholders to provide feedback in terms of their agreement with the report. Once all this is done the report is completed and documented until the next time this process needs to take place.


The steps presented here are not prescriptive. They are shared as a starting point for an organization’s journey in improving data governance. With experience, each organization will find its own way to support its stakeholders in the management of data.

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