Data Governance and Scope – Phase 1

By Anne Smith

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines scope as “extent of treatment, range of activity or influence, range of operation.”  Once an organization has determined it needs a data governance program and the program’s existence has been established by the charter, it is important that the program’s scope be defined.  To what extent will data governance influence the organization’s activitites, and how far will the operation extend into the business processes of the enterprise?  These questions will determine the scope of the data governance program.

There are many differnt reasons for instituting a data governance program, and each organization will have its own collection of needs to address through the governance of its data.  Some of these purposes could include recognition of the need to create and enforce rules about the organization’s data; a mechanism for developing and maintaining a common vocabulary for the organization (common data definitions, enterprise reference and master data); resolution of issues concerning data and its usage; communication about data’s importance to the organization and its business goals.

Scoping a data governance program could focus on one or more of the following approaches.  Many governance programs will include most of these approaches eventually, but each program will have an initial focus area that addresses the organization’s most pressing data-oriented problem.

  • Data architecture and implementation – for organizations that are embarking on systems re-engineering or ERP implementation or Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) – developing enterprise views of data and business processes, identifying master data / reference data for enterprise management, enterprise data architecture standards and enterprise metadata standards
  • Data warehousing and business intelligence – enterprise decision support programs that are designed to incorporate disparate transactional data into analytically oriented strucutures – again developing enterprise views of analytically important data, developing analysis rules and standards, developing and managing metadata for the data in the warehouse
  • Compliance, security and information management – enterprise approach for establishing and maintaining rules to adhere to standards imposed by regulation or mandate, developing and enforcing enterprise standards for data security, and addressing challenges and issues in information management for protected data
  • Data quality – for organizations whose data quality is less-than-optimal and for organizations that recognize the need for vigilance in data quality management – developing standards for data quality for key data elements, enforcing standards through business rules and system edits, developing and maintaining appropriate metadata to reinforce data acquisition and delivery at the correct level of quality

Each program will have its own scope, but most programs include the following activities: 

  • Enterprise-wide data naming convention and standards
  • Data management strategic and tactical planning
  • Data attribute/metric management
  • Data storage
  • Data stewards, ownership and compliance

To create the scope for the data governance initiative, the data governance council (formed by the charter) should identify the primary reason that data governance is needed at the organization (see list above) and detail the current state of data management, with examples from each stakeholder group.  It is important to interview as many stakeholder groups as possible to reach all affected areas, gaining an understanding of the extent of the problem.

Once this current state has been written, the council should describe any existing or past efforts to address the situation and the results achieved.  The scope document should offer a justification of why this program should be initiated, the expected consequences of implementing this program and any consequences that would result from not implementing a data governance program, and offer an explanation of why this program is unique or special.

Stakeholders can help articulate values, consequences, expectations and challenges for the program’s scope and can help focus the council on the most pressing needs of the organization for data governance and data management.  Having a solid program scope can make it easier to maintain the program’s focus in the face of adversity or challenges from competing programs, and can give justification for needed expenditures.

In future articles the critical success factors, risks and mitigation strategies, and other areas of a comprehensive scope document will be explained.

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

Free Expert Consultation