There is no Spoon ~ A Lesson in Data Governance

“Do not try to bend the spoon — that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: there is no spoon.”

It is true that there is no spoon, no magic potion, or super-shiny new piece of technology that will solve of your digital measurement issues, solve your implementation issues, or create that ever elusive value in the investment that your company has made in time, talent, and money in this world of digital measurement in which we are all working.

Over my next few blog posts we will explore the core components that are fundamental steps that companies should be taking and excelling in to be able to truly create and find that value.

  • Data Governance
  • Optimization, testing, and analysis
  • Data Architecture
  • The dreaded implementations

Chapter 1 – The mystery of the missing governance.

As we at Keystone Solutions are working with our clients to create sustainable digital ecosystems. We are called on more and more to help bridge the gap between digital, data governance and resource / technology issues.   The biggest gap that we encounter is the complete lack of any sort of reliable data governance.  I would wager Jason Thompson’s next paycheck that if you asked any manager of analytics at a large company if their IT department had a policy for how changes were requested and submitted and eventually deployed to the production websites, that after they sighed and let out a breath that revealed not only the existence of such a policy, they would regale you with stories about the many hoops that they are forced to jump through to get changes deployed.  Ask the same folks if they have a digital measurement data governance and I would bet that most of them do not.

So why do the IT departments have such policies in place?  Because they work.  They provide the checks and balances to make sure that any code deployed will not break the website, they are not overly concerned about if the code is properly tracking the site, but they make darn sure it does not cause the site to be negatively impacted.  Another side benefit that the IT department may not be as forthcoming in telling you about is that the mere existence of a policy with lots of hoops to jump through by default keeps a lot of requests from ever being submitted.   This same methodology to set up procedures that govern work intake, validating and prioritizing the requests that come in, and then executing and deploying new tracking requests should be created and then fiercely defended. Use force if necessary.   This takes time and dedication from all members of the analytics team, for as soon as you put this policy into practice you will have those that try to subvert the system and sneak in requests and not follow the policy.  This is where the fiercely defend part come in.  If you do not enforce this process then it is not the website that will break, but your data.  Once the data is broken, the stakeholders lose confidence in the data and can even begin to question the value of the investment in analytics in general.

Some of the premier companies out there in the world are spending the time to create such policies and support them with the staffing and training they need.  You do not need to look hard to find a great example as the team at Turner Broadcasting was nominated and a finalist this year in the Web Analytics Association Awards of Excellence for their work in data governance.

“Due to the uniqueness of each property’s data, Turner was also unable to fully monetize its audiences across the Turner network across properties. The solution was not immediately obvious. Turner brought in Keystone Consulting to assess each property and how they were trying to use data to run their business. Out of that process came 3 recommendations; a new Turner-wide contract with Omniture to replace 18 silo contracts – resulting in 350% more functionality for same cost; the creation of global standards; and the creation of a centralized team of dedicated experts drawn from 3 organizations that would work with each property in a hub-and-spoke configuration.”

Without solving the issue of data governance then throwing a new tool, naming an agency of record, or just adding more people into the mix will not solve any of the issues you are facing.  Take a step back before rushing in, and take the time to plan out the steps to get a handle on the governance policy for your data.  Defend and protect your data like it is your children then you will be able to move forward with solid data that everyone in the company from the mailroom to the boardroom can trust and benefit from and begin to make real, intelligent decisions.

Data Defender

With your data defender plan in place you will be ready to face the next set of obstacles to build and create your own world class sustainable digital measurement ecosystem.