Writing a Data Governance Charter – Statement of Intent

By Anne Smith

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 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 governance council would write their charter, which is the statement of intent for the governance program. The charter states the goals, objectives, purpose and desired results that will come from the enterprise governance work. It is a high-level document and does not contain details, but it presents the reasons for embarking on the 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 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 page 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 charter are:

  • Program / Project Title
  • Business Problem Statement
  • Program / Project Goals list (5 maximum, usually 3 minimum)
  • Program / Project 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, that 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 governance approach will require.

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

  • Program / Project 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 meta data 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.
  • Program / Project 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 governance of data and meta data across World Risk Insurance
    • Creation of business and technical steward roles and awareness of the critical responsibility these roles hold
  • Program / Project 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 steward roles, development of a sustained and robust data stewardship team and data governance council
    • Active participation in governance efforts from all areas of the company (business units, IT, operational units such as finance and human resources)
    • Development and implementation of governance and stewardship processes and training
  • Program Start Date– July 1, 2007
  • Program Manager Name and Title– John Doe, Project Management Officer

Using the vision statement and program charter, an organization can proceed to the development of the next important artifact in creating a governance program, the Program Scope.

About the Author

Anne Marie Smith is a leading consultant in Information Management and is a frequent contributor to various IS publications. Anne Marie has over 20 years experience in information management for several corporate entities and has successfully led the development of data resource management departments within corporations and consulting organizations. Anne Marie is active in the local chapter of DAMA and serves on the board of directors of DAMA International, and is an advisor to the DM Forum. She has been an instructor of Management Information Systems (MIS) with Philadelphia, PA area colleges and universities. Anne Marie has taught topics such as: data stewardship and governance, data warehousing, business requirements gathering and analysis, metadata management and metadata strategy, information systems and data warehouse project management. Anne Marie’s areas of consulting expertise include metadata management including data stewardship and governance, information systems planning, systems analysis and design, project management, data warehouse systems assessment and development, information systems process improvement and information resource management/data resource management. Anne Marie holds the degrees Bachelor of Arts and a Master's of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from La Salle University; she has earned a PhD in MIS at Northcentral University. She is a certified logical data and process modeler and holds project management certification. Anne Marie can be reached at amsmith@ewsolutions.com

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