Case Study

Data as a Strategic Asset: Helping a Federal Agency Implement Enterprise Data Governance

A Federal regulatory agency turned to Censeo to gain visibility into data needs and practices across divisions, and develop and implement a strategy to improve data governance across the agency, enabling it to mitigate risks and improve mission outcomes.

Situation

A Federal regulatory agency with multiple divisions, all heavy generators and consumers of data, lacked a common, standardized approach for managing data enterprise-wide. Leadership knew the agency’s data footprint was growing rapidly but lacked clarity into the anticipated volume and nature of this growth. Censeo was tasked with developing agency-wide visibility into data needs and management practices across multiple divisions, estimate future growth in data needs, and identify consequent risks and management implications. Our assessment showed the agency needed to take immediate action to navigate the coming big data “wave,” and we developed a detailed strategy and implementation plan to improve data governance practices and processes across the agency.

Approach

Given the highly fragmented state of data management at the agency and the multiplicity of stakeholders  who would be involved in the effort (e.g., business / program and IT teams, analytically sophisticated data consumers and managers, operational managers), the Censeo team took a highly collaborative four-step approach to build the case for change and ensure the long-term success of the agency’s data governance and management efforts.

1.     Documented as-is processes.

The team began by documenting the current state of data management:

  • Analyzed the agency’s data footprint and built a business case for robust data management – The team found that the agency would soon encounter supply-demand mismatches because of exponential data growth and lack of a disciplined approach for managing this growth. These findings provided a common fact base establishing the need for comprehensive data governance.
  • Assessed and documented the as-is state—Censeo next deployed a data governance maturity assessment diagnostic to perform a gap analysis and surface root causes behind the limited maturity levels discovered.
  • Framed data governance best practices—With the need for robust data governance firmly established, Censeo walked the agency through data management best practices from both industry and other Federal agencies to establish a vision for the potential improvement opportunity.
2.     Developed data governance strategy and implementation plan.

The team next aligned stakeholders around an end-state vision for data governance across the agency, used this vision to “work backward” and prioritize a set of improvement opportunities based on the current state, and developed a strategy and operating plans to achieve the vision, first within a pilot division and then more broadly across the agency.

3.     Implemented comprehensive data management policies and procedures.

Next, Censeo helped implement the strategy and worked closely with both technical staff and business users for successful operationalization. Key areas prioritized for initial execution sprints included:

  • Data stewardship—Through in-depth interviews, the team mapped the stakeholders across the data life cycle, and defined roles and responsibilities for key data governance and management positions.
  • Metadata repository—A key pain point for business users was the lack of a searchable metadata repository that enabled them to intuitively hone in on the datasets most likely to be relevant to a given business need / decision. The team developed a tailored taxonomy to describe datasets and their contents, and used this to tag datasets and create a robust and searchable catalog of datasets.
  • Data governance intranet site—The team found that several types of information relevant to each dataset (beyond metadata) resided in silos across the divisions (e.g., lists of “super users” for each dataset, agency publications drawing upon a dataset), and were not leveraged to their potential. Censeo developed an agency-wide intranet site to promote knowledge sharing on data-related topics.
  • Metrics—One of the challenges identified early on was the lack of transparency into the organization’s data assets. The team defined key Data Governance metrics and developed an automated dashboard to be used by agency leadership in determining future data needs and budgeting.
4.     Developed and disseminated data-management SOPs.

To ensure sustained and successful ongoing data management and governance, the team developed a suite of resources for standard operating procedures, including:

  • Policy and procedure documentation—This included detailed descriptions and practice guides / training materials for data stewards, an overview of the broader data governance structure, roles / responsibilities and key outputs for different data management positions, and reference materials to help business users understand how the data governance program would benefit them and how they should interact with the data governance team.
  • Training—The team also conducted formal and informal trainings (e.g., brown bags, demos) and implemented a communication plan to alert agency stakeholders to data-related developments on an ongoing basis (e.g., regular newsletters, targeted outreach to specific users).

Results

Censeo’s support helped the agency gain visibility into its enterprise data footprint, aligned stakeholders around the need for robust enterprise-wide data governance / management and a shared vision, strategy and quarterly operating plan for the same, and informed other key strategic initiatives (e.g., serving as a critical input into the agency’s cloud migration strategy). The effort broke down organizational silos and fostered closer cross-agency collaboration around a standardized set of data management practices.

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