Let us think about what an organization’s report request process might look like in terms of effort if you are trying to implement a certain amount of diligence. If we are a report writer and we are getting asked to build a new report, then what is the effort that we must make to do due diligence without a formalized data governance process in place? This blog post will discuss why data governance is necessary using the example of the report request process. And note that the report request process is just a piece of data governance.
Here's the example:
First, in place is a manual, decentralized request process and a new report request comes in
A report writer gets an email or a phone call from someone saying, "Hey, can you create this report that has this set of people on it with these values and these calculations? We need it by next Friday." The report writer answers, “Okay, great.". Without data governance in place there is no formal process that can be used to record the request, keep track of the types / number of requests, and if a similar request has been placed.
Second, report writer manages their own documentation of request and report design
The report writer wants to make sure that what is being built is right for what that requester is asking for. The report writer is going to go through the process of building out their own documentation and sending it back to the requester saying, "This is what we think you want from a requirement standpoint. This is how we plan to design it. Does this look right to you?". Data governance provides a process, a template, and a knowledge base for this design. Without data governance each report writer will need to take valuable time creating their own system for report requests and design.
Third, report writer works on report design
The report writer thinks to themself, "Is there already a report that does this or does something similar?" Without data governance there is no report catalog that can be searched. Or maybe there is a challenge that there are multiple reporting tools with different levels of access. The report writer might not have access to all those tools to search for a particular report. The report writer might need to research the appropriate data systems for this report, what data is available, and what logic is already there. If the report writer does not already have it, they may have to request access to that system so they can get in there and look at the metadata. They need to understand what tables exist. Then with access, the report writer can find another report to build on. Or the report writer is going to iterate with that requester to confirm that they have the right requirements. The other alternative is, "All right, we are just going to assume we know what they want, and we are going to guess where it is. We are going to start writing something on our own." Risky.
Maybe the requester wants to know how the organization determines the anticipated retirement date for an employee. And maybe the report writer does not know HR data very well. This is a new request that has never been made (or we don’t think this request has been made before). The report writer needs to try to figure out what this means. Without a data governance knowledge base in place, the report writer needs to determine that business definition for anticipated retirement date. The report writer must figure out who is the right person to ask. Who is the person who can tell me how we calculate or where we store anticipated retirement data or even if we have that somewhere? Once the report writer figures out who the right person to contact for information, the report writer sends them a request for information and asks for a response. Now everyone is waiting for a response that might come quickly or it might not. With data governance in place, the appropriate data steward would be known or the information would be located in the data governance knowledge base..
Maybe the data requester will get a response from the report writer that says, "That's a great question. We do have a way that we calculate that. In fact, there are four ways that this is calculated. Which one are you looking for?". Or the report writer might select one of the calculation methods themselves. As you can see, this might mean that the requester might not what they want. Unfortunately, in our experience, a lot of people who are not dedicated to the diligence of this, are going to potentially just go with the first thing they can think of and hope it is what the report requester wanted.
Fourth, the report writer builds the report
The report writer might need to request access to the data and tools to develop. Data governance would provide a formal process to request this access. When the report is done, the report writer will let the requester know it is ready. Remember, this came in informally over a phone or email, so the report writer can send them back an email and say, "This is what it is." But how is the organization making the documentation available as well as how is it tracking the request and the completion of the request? Anyone that has done report development without having a good sign-off process or tracking system knows that it can be a forever task to close anything out associated with these informal processes.
Fifth, the report writer wants to share documentation
The report writer has created a good requirements document and some technical documentation on what this report is. Where does this information go? If no good place exists, then maybe the report writer throws it away or places it on their personal PC. Which means it will probably never be looked at again. If there is no data governance repository, then this hard work will be wasted.
Sixth, later someone asks for a similar report
Let us say in a few months a different requestor asks for a report that is given to a different report writer, who is going to search for an existing report or similar report. And searches for answers to their questions. They are not going to be able to find that information and they are going to go through similar work as the first report writer did. Or even if they do find an existing report, are they going to be able to find a documentation or even know who built it? There is a whole bunch of effort that is going on here that keeps running into barriers, burdens, and extra time to do this report. Data governance business processes provides the ability to deliver data with good management and a knowledge base which be searched easily.
The organization is never going to beat in terms of time to delivery, a report writer who does not care about doing diligence or does not care if the data is correct or if anyone ever wants to look at what they did again. The organization should look at the total effort over time: designing it, developing it, supporting it, maintaining it, and whether it can be applied for reuse in other ways.
If a mission-critical report or other deliverable is created, then there can be a lot of value from that. You know with that, you have to take out from that not only the backend support, maintenance and reuse, but the risk and accuracy or the lack of trust that maybe no one's really going to use it unless they really understand it or, again, the lack of ability to reuse it can greatly diminish this value. If someone says, "This is great, but we want to do it one other way." Unfortunately, if the person who originally developed the report is no longer there, that is going to be hard.
A good report, piece of data or information that is provided will often produce more questions and answers. Someone might say after getting this information, "That's really useful. We would like to know more about that," or "That opens up other questions we have.". If your deliverable does not have the ability to deal with those add-on questions quickly and accurately, it is going to diminish the value.
We hope you found this blog post useful. In summary, having a data governance framework and a data knowledge base in place would be extremely helpful to the organization. Total cost and effort will be less if there are data stewards in place who can handle data requests, having a data intelligence knowledge base in place to search for previous data requests and having a formal data request process in place so that requests are sent to the right data stewards along with templates so that requests are more easily handled by the right person. Additional information about the data request process and lifecycle can be found in this blog post.
IData has a solution, the Data Cookbook, that can aid the employees and the organization in its data governance and data intelligence efforts. IData also has experts that can assist with data governance, reporting, integration and other technology services on an as needed basis. Feel free to contact us and let us know how we can assist.
(image credit StockSnap_LK46EHFEEF_twopeopletalking_reportresquestprocess_BP #1136)