Data Governance is Not Dead – It’s Not Possible

Data Governance is Not Dead – It’s Not Possible

- by Bob Seiner, Expert in Data Management

Several articles have been published over the years that imply, or even outright state, that “Data Governance is Dead” (or at least fading at a substantial pace). These articles weren’t written by just anybody. A few of these articles came from established authors and trusted “data people”.

Were the titles of the articles just “click bait” or do they have some merit? While the articles were interesting reads and made some relevant points, they also appeared to shy away from one important concept. I want to share that concept in this article … Data Governance cannot die; it’s just not possible.

Data governance is not dead. Long live data governance.

The title of this article might seem bold at first glance, yet it’s rooted in a fundamental truth about how organizations manage and interact with their data. At its core, I define data governance as “the execution and enforcement of authority over the definition, production, and use of data”. This essential definition and the process of “executing and enforcing authority” occurs in every organization, regardless of whether it’s formally acknowledged. The misconception that data governance can become obsolete or go-away overlooks the perpetual presence of informal governance mechanisms operating within every data-driven decision and process.

Not About Survival

The assertion here isn’t just about the survival of data governance. It is also about recognizing and harnessing data governance’s pervasive influence. The key distinction lies in how governance is approached – informally or formally – and the efficiency and effectiveness of these methods. Informal governance, the natural state in many organizations, operates without explicit structures or roles. It’s the unspoken rules and understandings that guide how data is used and managed daily. While this might sound convenient, it often leads to inconsistencies, redundancies, and misunderstandings that hinder an organization’s ability to fully leverage its data assets.

Recognizing the abundant influence of data governance invites organizations to critically evaluate and refine their approach towards managing data. The transition from informal to formal governance practices marks a pivotal step in mitigating the adverse effects of an unstructured data environment. By adopting a more structured approach, organizations can address the root causes of data inconsistencies, eliminate redundancies, and clarify misunderstandings. This shift not only streamlines data management processes but also amplifies the value derived from data assets, positioning organizations to better meet their strategic objectives and harness the full potential of their data.

Formalization is Key

Enter the concept of Non-Invasive Data Governance (NIDG), a methodology that doesn’t seek to overhaul or impose heavy-handed control mechanisms on an organization. Instead, NIDG recognizes and formalizes the inherent governance roles and responsibilities already present in the organization’s workflow. This approach minimizes resistance, as it does not introduce foreign concepts but rather builds on the existing organizational culture and practices. By identifying and empowering the natural stewards of data within the organization, NIDG fosters a more coordinated and coherent governance structure.

NIDG’s strength lies in its ability to seamlessly integrate into an organization’s existing culture, enhancing data governance without the friction typically associated with new implementations. This methodology champions the concept that every member of the organization, regardless of their role, contributes to the governance of data through their daily interactions with it.

By formally recognizing these contributions and providing clear governance responsibilities, NIDG creates a structured yet flexible framework that encourages widespread engagement and buy-in. This inclusiveness ensures that data governance is not seen as an external imposition but as an integral part of the organizational fabric, leading to more effective data management and a stronger alignment with business objectives.

Making the Implicit Explicit

The beauty of NIDG lies in its ability to make explicit what is already happening implicitly. Every organization governs its data to some degree; the act of deciding who can access certain information, the process of generating reports, and the methods used to ensure data quality are all facets of governance. NIDG simply brings these activities into the light, providing clarity, consistency, and a shared vocabulary that enhances the organization’s data management capabilities. It turns informal practices into formalized processes that enhance efficiency and effectiveness, ensuring that data governance not only survives but thrives.

Transforming these implicit activities into formalized practices under the NIDG framework not only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of data management but also fosters a culture of accountability and transparency across the organization. It creates a systematic approach to managing data assets, ensuring that every action taken regarding data is deliberate, documented, and aligned with overarching governance policies.

This transition from implicit to explicit governance helps eliminate ambiguity and confusion, streamlining decision-making processes and enabling more robust data security and compliance mechanisms. As a result, organizations can leverage their data more confidently and effectively, driving better outcomes and fostering a more data-centric culture.

Ad Hoc Does Not Cut It

The inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of informal governance stem from its ad hoc nature. Without clear guidelines, roles, and responsibilities, data management efforts can become fragmented, leading to data silos, quality issues, and compliance risks. NIDG addresses these challenges head-on by embedding governance into the fabric of everyday activities. It ensures that data is handled consistently and strategically across all levels of the organization, aligning data management practices with broader business objectives.

By embedding governance into daily routines, NIDG transforms ad hoc decisions and processes into a structured and strategic framework that enhances data integrity and utility. This methodical approach ensures that every interaction with data, from creation to retirement, is governed by established standards and practices, mitigating the risk of errors, breaches, and non-compliance.

Additionally, it promotes a seamless integration of data governance with business strategies, enabling organizations to harness the full potential of their data assets. Through this alignment, NIDG not only addresses the pitfalls of informal governance but also paves the way for a more informed, agile, and responsive organization capable of meeting its objectives with greater efficiency and effectiveness.


The notion that “Data Governance is Not Dead – It’s Not Possible” emphasizes the indisputable role of governance in the management and use of data. With the advent of methodologies like NIDG, organizations have the opportunity to transform informal, implicit governance into a formal, structured process that leverages the inherent knowledge and expertise within the organization.

By doing so, organizations can overcome the limitations of informal governance, enhancing their operational efficiency, data quality, and strategic decision-making capabilities. Data governance, especially when implemented non-invasively, is not just an enduring aspect of organizational life. It is a critical foundation for leveraging data as a strategic asset.


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