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Book Review: The Chief Data Officer Handbook for Data Governance

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When implemented appropriately, data governance is a powerful framework.


Since 2006, I have created the role of Chief Data Officer thrice in different healthcare organizations. My role expanded in scope over time, in keeping with the trend of increasing importance of data to a business. I went from the leader of a functional unit to the general manager of a business unit and then to a member of the CEO's senior leadership team. I had to reinvent the CDO role at each transition to reflect the expanded scope. But one aspect remained constant: Every time, I had to implement a data governance program.


Why was that the case? The CDO has to change the culture of the organization. While data was once viewed as a byproduct of the business, it now has to be treated as an important corporate asset. What does that entail, and how should it be done?


Changing the culture of a large organization is probably the most challenging of corporate assignments one can undertake. You have to win the hearts and minds of your fellow workers at all levels—no easy task. The key to simplifying that task and to effecting change is a formal data governance program. Let me explain why.


To be lasting, a culture change must be worked in every possible way. Otherwise, a large organization will not let it take hold. The implementation of a data governance program enables such a multipronged approach. For example, we must establish a structure for data stewardship as part of data governance so that those who are working with data understand the importance of their role and ensure that data are accurate and reliable. Stewardship is a bottom-up approach to changing the culture of the organization.


We must also establish a governance council that meets regularly and is composed of representatives from business, legal, and information technology—all of whom are needed to set policy and enforce it on matters pertaining to data. This structure cuts across organizational boundaries. It is a lateral approach to changing the culture.


Most important, we must make sure the data governance program is adequately funded by securing the sponsorship of the senior leaders of the organization. Once they become sponsors of the data governance program, these leaders direct their departments to participate in the program. This is a top-down approach to changing the culture.


When implemented appropriately, data governance is a powerful framework. It enables the right messages around data to be carried throughout the organization simultaneously along all possible pathways of communication. It makes it simpler to change the culture of how data are managed.


So how does a CDO implement data governance appropriately? First, read the book The Chief Data Officer Handbook for Data Governance. The author, Sunil Soares, is a pioneer in the field. Through his clear and pithy writing, he has made the art form of data governance into a science. Second, educate your team by having them read this book. In this remarkably short guide, Sunil has gone a step further by reducing the science to a formula. It is a quick read and yet a comprehensive treatment of the subject. Third, implement data governance. Using a prescriptive, step-by-step approach, Sunil explains how to do so. I recommend you follow that prescription to success.


Inderpal Bhandari is senior vice president and chief data officer of Cambia Health Solutions. Prior to joining Cambia, Inderpal served as Vice President of Knowledge Solutions and Chief Data Officer at Express Scripts, where he was responsible for maximizing the utility of the company's data and its readiness to respond to emerging market trends. Prior to that, he founded Virtual Gold, growing the company into an international market leader with 50 corporate clients.


Inderpal earned his master of science degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts and holds a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.



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