Developing a Mission for Data Governance – “Make It So!”

By Anne Smith

In a prior article, I attempted to outline the reasons for creating a vision for data governance within an organization. Since many strategic thinkers recommend developing a mission statement as well as a vision, it would be good to examine mission statements and their purposes.

Turning to the definitions of “mission” in Merriam-Webster the reader finds:a specific task with which a person or a group is charged;a pre-established and often self-imposed objective or purpose. A mission for data governance would include the development of objectives to be achieved by the act of governing data and information. Many organizations see the mission as the “call to action” or “charge” to be implemented. Mission statements frequently make the companion vision statement operative. Once again, for a successful initiative mission statements must be clear, dynamic and reflect the vision they are supposed to support.

Once the organization has created and delivered its vision for data governance, it becomes necessary to articulate how this vision will be realized, both in the strategic view (mission) and in the tactical view (goals). So the second step in a successful governance effort is the development of mission statement(s) for data governance that embody the organization’s vision and can be achieved within reasonable periods of time. Using the same techniques as were used in creating the vision (skills of a specialist in governance and using the techniques of facilitation) the senior team produces one or more mission statements for the enterprise. The statements should be coordinated to produce a common understanding of what the organization wishes to accomplish with data governance and some impressions of how the vision will be realized.

Compared to a vision statement, which is an image of the desired future, the mission statement is a clear and compelling declaration that focuses people’s efforts. This development is done in the planning process, as is the creation of a vision statement, and it should not be overlooked or shortened. Several approaches can be useful to defining a mission:

  • Targeting:set a clear, definable target and aim for it (for data, what is the target the organization wishes to reach?)
  • Common Enemy:create a goal focused on defeating a common enemy (for data, the “enemy” may be data ignorance, data apathy, poor data quality)
  • Role Model:select a well-known success and emulate it (for data, are there organizations that manage / govern data well? If so, how can we be more like them?)

As an example, Microsoft’s:

Vision:To see a computer in every home in the world.
Mission:To provide software programs that are consistent, affordable, easy to use, and are the standard in the industry.

Mission and vision statements form the foundation of communication concerning the data governance initiatives. This communication should be directed at every person responsible for creating, managing or using any data. A mission statement serves to define an overall vision for the data governance programs, so that employees focus both on their roles within the company, and on their relationship with data and information. A well-crafted mission statement helps assure greater unity of purpose and vision throughout your company, one reason that many companies develop vision and mission statements for all strategic initiatives such as data governance. Also, a mission statement may be incorporated into advertising messages, annual reports, and all other marketing vehicles that define those initiatives to all who participate in them. Periodic refinement of the mission is an important step, and is usually done when the vision is refined, making it possible for the enterprise to follow the best governance path for their future.

Articulated and communicated well these two strategic directives should give everyone in the organization a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose. Far from being “exercises” the development of appropriate vision and mission statements can give substance to the start of a data governance program.

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

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