“Lead with purpose to achieve clarity in a world of ambiguity.”This was, appropriately, the theme of Gartner’s Data & Analytics Summit, which attracted hundreds of data professionals to Orlando for analyst, vendor, and end user presentations, workshops, and discussions about all things data.

From the opening keynote, which introduced the theme and explored the current ambiguities of “Data-Driven,” “Privacy,” and “AI,” to presentations on the Master Quadrants to overviews of the future of Master Data Management or technology vendor perspectives on the future of data and analytics, I saw quite a few well thought out and delivered presentations.

I also had quite a few interesting conversations with data practitioners, colleagues, and partners over the 3 days I was in Florida – and overheard quite a few more in line at Starbucks or shuffling food around my plate during lunch. Reflecting on my time at the Summit, it was a few of these conversations (which I overheard or in which I was an active participant) that struck me the most. The topic wasn’t surprising, but what was surprising was that it was as prevalent as “Digital Transformation,” “Big Data,” or “Data-Driven” have been at past summits: Data Governance. It seemed to be on everyone’s mind, and rightfully so, considering Gartner’s stat that “Through 2022, only 20% of organizations investing in information governance will succeed in scaling governance for digital business.”

There were more than 30 presentations on the official agenda that touched on the topic in one way or another, including Gartner’s VP Saul Judah’s excellent presentation on “The Foundation and Future of Data and Analytics Governance,” in which he posed the question: “Where is governance failing today and how do we fix it?” Judah recognized that “top performing organizations”:

  • Recognize – They evaluate their businesses processes and enterprise architecture and understand the tasks that they are able to currently perform and the limitations that prevent them from performing other tasks.
  • Act – They take strategic and deliberate steps to address and remediate the limitations facing their organization.
  • Evolve – They move past action and actively strategize what practical steps can be taken to move their organization forward.

Judah went on to explain that to bridge the gap between the governance that organizations have and the governance that organizations need is adaptive governance:

“Adaptive governance is the organizational capability determining the governance styles and mechanisms that will deliver required business outcomes in a given context.”

Essentially, the process of adaptive governance eliminates the outdated mode of “one size fits all, center out” governance  that is “passive,” “disconnected from local decision making.” and “compliance-oriented.”Rather, adaptive governance embraces new processes that are “flexible,” “sensitive to context,” “active,” and “connected to [business] value.”

Based on the conversations I had and overheard, I think many more of the event’s attendees could have benefited from hearing Judah’s presentation than were present in the room. More often than I can recall, I heard attendees bemoan their organization’s challenges with governance.

I suspect that at least one lunch table resembled a support group: “Hi. My name is Bill and I have a data governance problem.” It seemed as though many were in the beginning stages of Judah’s observation about how top organizations approach governance: Recognition. This is not to say that everyone who admits his company has a governance problem is completely ready to move to step 2: Act, let alone step 3: Evolve, which is where most of them seemed to want to go immediately. Attending a conference often instills professionals with adrenaline. They meet peers who are facing the same problems. They hear new ideas from analysts and those who “have been there and done that.” And, they arrive home reinvigorated and ready to implement the silver bullet that will finally the problem. That’s not always a bad thing. But, organizations should take the time to go through each step.

The heart of Judah’s “Recognition” step was to evaluate what the organization CAN do currently and UNDERSTAND the limitations that hinder them from doing the things they want to do. This goes well beyond “I have a problem.” And, sometimes, it helps to have a neutral party assist in assessing your data governance landscape and offer perspective and advice based on real-world experience – which just happens to be a service that Amplifi offers.

Read more about our approach in this eBook we authored with our partner EnterWorks.