Lawless data: A world without data governance

A professional world without data governance would feel something like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, with everyone involved sharing nonsensical ideas and talking in terms that don’t make sense to every other person in the organization.

This is often what I run into when I take on a new project with a team. They have been manually tracking data in a spreadsheet with little to no limits on how they enter the data. Or they are using multiple spreadsheets in multiple locations and repeating the work of other people without knowing it, making work more difficult than it needs to be. After years of doing things without rules, they approach me and ask me to make sense of the work they have done. And I can’t.

Not right away anyway. It is going to take hours (if not days or weeks) to make heads or tails of the predicament they have created. Now they are not only asking me to build a report or create an analysis out of the data chaos I am attempting to interpret, but I am being asked to undo all the work they have done while establishing data governance.

This chaos can be created in as simple a way as abbreviating a term in some places but not in others within the same field, making it look as though one common value is actually multiple values. It can also be as insane as the multiple spreadsheets scenario, where we find multiple people doing the work but tracking it in different ways, or one person storing the work in a strangely divided way without any rhyme or reason.


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