Data governance committees often struggle to find the right combination of attendees, with both over-inclusiveness and under-inclusiveness resulting in failed data governance efforts.
When committees are over-inclusive, members spend time in meetings where 50% or more of the conversation is personally irrelevant. This leads to disengagement, attendance drop-off or delegation, and, ultimately, committee failure.
To avoid this, some institutions opt for a leaner approach, but this can be under-inclusive, resulting in subjective decisions, incomplete inputs, future definition revision, and decisions that are not implemented.
To create an effective and efficient data governance structure, the University of Notre Dame identified 20 roles across the institution to include in a data governance committee. These roles provide comprehensive coverage of the knowledge required to define terms in ways that would be defensible and acceptable across campus.
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While most institutions expect full attendance at every data governance meeting, the University of Notre Dame takes a different approach. Committee members choose whether or not to be actively involved in defining each term. Attendance is non-negotiable only for people who are explicitly responsible for terms discussed (propose role) and data governance staff (document role); attendance only becomes mandatory for any committee member who opts in. Members who opt out give their tacit agreement to the committee’s decisions.
The University leveraged a RACI matrix to divide members’ responsibilities into four roles: propose, document, consult, and agree. While certain roles are codified (stewards must propose some term definitions), all remaining committee members self-select their roles through a survey, based on the terms presented for discussion in the next meeting.
Like flipped classrooms, this model benefits from work being done before meetings. The proposers draft definitions ahead of time with other subject matter expert input and coordination with the Data Governance Director. The convened group then discusses, revises, and finalizes the definitions.
The bounded decision roles for data governance meetings at the University of Notre Dame help the committee achieve goals of not wasting personnel time while also not excluding critical perspectives. The example self-nomination grid at right shows how committee members may choose their roles for each term, optimizing their engagement in meetings by only opting in for terms in which they have an interest.
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Benefits of this process include personnel time savings (members who opt out need not attend all meetings) as well as efficiency (terms only need to be defined once since everyone signs off on meeting decisions—even those not present).
The University of Notre Dame found that the data governance committee was able to achieve group consensus on the terms it defined while having fewer than a quarter of its members at each meeting.
Only three roles opted in to participate in definition creation for over half of the past year’s terms—the data governance director; a representative from the strategic planning and IR office; and a representative from the provost’s office. The majority of the committee members opted to participate in defining fewer than 10% of the discussed terms.
The University of Notre Dame’s processes have led to high-quality definitions with lower resource consumption than the typical model for data governance committees.
By having the right people in the room at the right times, the University is swiftly capturing all of the desired inputs and generating good definitions. The committee is able to define terms almost twice as quickly, spending just eight minutes per term defined, compared with 15 minutes per term under the traditional process. The time savings add up; the University has defined 300 terms in one year using the new process, compared with just 160 per year under the traditional process.
In addition, the defined terms require fewer revisions from dissatisfied stakeholders. Finally, having members attend only the meetings relevant to them has also led to sustained engagement with the committee.
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