How to motivate Data Owners to act

Data Ownership is the job of being accountable for the data in your domain. Firstly, it is a role that must be filled by a senior stakeholder. Secondly, the Data Owner must be the person that feels the pain of bad data in their domain. Finally, the Data Owner needs the Power and Authority to be able to marshal resources to fix data issues. Given these are powerful stakeholders, how can a Data Governance Lead motivate Data Owners to do the right thing with data?

What happens when Data Owners are not Motivated?

First let’s take a look at some common issues we see if you fail to motivate Data Owners:

  • No Business Direction – the governance team end up “flying blind” without a clear understanding of business goals, leading to;
  • Technology overspend – buying a Data Governance tool in the hope it will increase engagement, and;
  • No Data Steward support – stewards fail to attend meetings or follow up on their tasks, meaning;
  • The governance program stutters and fails

This is clearly the worst case outcome, but we have seen it all too frequently when you don’t motivate your Data Owners properly.

Where do you begin to motivate Data Owners?

You should aim to use Change Management techniques to identify:

  • Data Owners that are most resistant to change, and;
  • Data Owners that will have greatest influence when they are onboard

Once you know who you’re targeting first, you can build a plan of attack. Clearly the “front on assault” of asking for their help has already failed (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this). So instead we’re going to use a more stealthy angle in. You’ll need to do some homework, and create a battle plan.

Use a Value Proposition Canvas

The Value Proposition Canvas is the brainchild of Strategyzer. It’s premise is simple; map out the jobs, pains and gains for a Customer Profile (and yes, your Data Owner is an internal customer). Once you understand these jobs, pains and gains, you can begin to test a “value proposition” that your Data Owner should care about.

Value Proposition Canvas to motivate Data Owners
Map what your Data Owner cares about so you can motivate them more easily.

Building the right canvas above requires research. I would recommend beginning with the Jobs, what are the things your Data Owner needs to achieve in their role. If you’re stumped, try thinking along these lines:

  • Is there a job description of your Data Owner available internally, or can you find a job post for a similar role to work from?
  • Do they feature in internal communications with stated strategic goals for the year?
  • Can you talk with their Executive Assistant, or have a water cooler chat with someone in their team?
  • What does the Annual Report tell you about strategic objectives in their domain?

Don’t forget that some jobs are social, and not documented in a job description. The Data Owner may have a job of “get a promotion” or “grow my team from 10 to 20 people”, which is unlikely to be listed in their Job Description.

Pains and Gains

The pains describe outcomes that occur when the job is poorly delivered. These can be obvious “lose my job”, or less obvious “miss out on the company strategic retreat”. They might be pains of paying too much for a service, or of taking on unnecessary risk for a project. Pain is a powerful motivator, and many people find it easy to map these out. Showing where Data Governance can relieve these pains is a great way to motivate Data Owners.

Gains are the flip side – what happens when a job is done well. These might be financial “get a pay raise”, or related to the Data Governance program “spend less than 5% of my time acting as a Data Owner”. It’s often a bit harder to conceive of these things, yet they’re also powerful ways to motivate Data Owners.

Putting it all Together

You’ll need to test these ideas – by creating value propositions where the act of governing data will alleviate a pain or deliver a gain:

  • Prioritise the jobs from Important to Insignificant
  • Rank the pains from Severe to Moderate
  • List the gains from Essential to Nice to Have

Focus on the jobs, pains and gains that your Data Governance program can fix. No program will help with every job, solve every pain or deliver every gain, so be specific.

A video to help with motivating Data Owners

Check out the following video to understand more:

If you need help to motivate your Data Owners, get in touch with us using the form below