Keep It Simple!

By Anne Smith

Never before has the management of data been so important to organizations.  Gartner estimates that about 25% of all development and enhancement efforts fail due to a lack of meta data or business requirement clarity. How companies manage their requirements gathering is integral to their system development and project management methodologies – and shows the need for effective data governance.

To be successful, project data stewards must participate in the following process:

  • Participate in the development of the business case and assist in identifying potential impact for the business by gathering the right amount of detail at each stage of the project.
  • Work with data and business analysts to describe each requirement and data object appropriately.
  • Ensure ALL contingencies and variables are considered for the business processes.
  • Find and document the areas where a business decision must be made by a stakeholder to define scope.
  • Participate in managing scope creep and focusing on managing the needed data, meta data and business processes for a project.

To be useful, a process should be as simple as possible without losing any capabilities.  For some projects, data stewardship will be more complex than this simple set of steps implies.  However, it is possible to maintain a level of simplicity while continuing to instill rigor into the data stewardship effort.

  1. Keep it SIMPLE: Unless the root process is simple, stewards will not acquire a sense of how they can contribute.  Each project stewardship session should last for one hour, and the business and data analysts should ensure that each session is productive.
  2. Focus on the BUSINESS USER: Stewards should maintain their business focus, to be engaged and feel that their decisions and input were captured as part of the initiative. Business Events should be described in business language, to partition requirements into distinct data and process units that can each be analyzed by smaller steward teams with the participation of additional subject matter experts from the user community where appropriate.
  3. Quickly document and ORGANIZE INFORMATION: To ensure clarity and control scope the stewardship facilitators must collect all data and the appropriate meta data. To communicate with systems architects and developers, business analysts should work with the stewards to develop data models and process flow to document how processes will operate and the data they will use. With this information documented and centrally available, the goal of reusability can be achieved, making subsequent sessions and later projects simpler.
  4. Focus on the “WHAT” rather than the “HOW” in managing project stewardship:The governance program should devote its attention to the processes needed for governance and stewardship, thus allowing the project stewards and their teams to concentrate on the activities that will provide project-appropriate value.  Many stewardship teams spend an inordinate amount of time on the mechanics of stewardship, thereby reducing the amount of time available to “be” stewards.

Remember, for a process to be successful, it must be embraced.  Maintaining the interest and attention of the project data stewards requires vigilance and the continual socialization of the “keep it simple” approach.

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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