Rolling Out A Sustained Data Governance Culture

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Did you know that more data has been created in the last two years than in the entire history of the human race and that over 60% of the human population are creating data via internet engagement and footprint? What do you do with all that Data? ‘You have to start somewhere, so somewhere is where we will start’ … but where is somewhere?! Every organisational transformation starts the same, whether it be cultural, digital or even data, defining your somewhere is the starting point. ‘Drawing the line in the sand’ as some would say. Well, just under two years ago Dwr Cymru Welsh Water made the conscious decision to draw that line in the sand and allocate a significant amount of focus towards their data, as a result WISER was born.

Ben Evans, Dwr Cymru Data Governance Manager, Welsh Water;
Ben will be speaking at the Data Governance Conference & Master Data Management Summit Europe 2018 on the subject Rollout and Sustain Data Governance 14-17 May, 2018

WISER is Dwr Cymru Welsh Waters Information Strategy Enterprise Roadmap to become an organisation that utilises its wealth of Data to inform strategic and operational decision making.

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is the sixth largest of the ten regulated water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. Responsible for providing over three million people with a continuous, high quality supply of drinking water and for taking away, treating and properly disposing of the wastewater that is produced, we are fully committed to delivering best quality service at least possible cost. Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is unique in the sense it has no shareholders and is a not-for-profit organisation.

The drive to become ‘Data centric’ is inherent across the business where each business function strives to interpret and utilise the vast wave of data that flushes through the business on a day to day basis. The core objective of interpreting and utilising data stems from the core business value to ‘Earn the trust of our customers every day’

WISER plays an integral role in enabling the business to maintain alignment with this core value.

As part of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s continued efforts to embed a data driven culture, the WISER programme led by the Data Governance team is gathering pace and the impact on the business is visible for all to see. The way the business interprets data is changing, the way the business utilises data is changing and the way the business collects and stores data is changing. The current data landscape at Welsh Water is understood and the appetite for change to progress to our target state is agreed upon and supported from operational to executive levels within the business.

WISER has been striving to standardise and implement processes that ensure that our data is trusted and fit for purpose by giving individuals ownership of fixing and preventing issues, so the business can work more efficiently. Colleagues from all across the business are involved in monitoring and improving our data to derive accurate business intelligence.

We are using a standardised approach to implement WISER, beginning with data governance across a set of defined data domains that cover all areas of the business. Establishing a solid infrastructure by execution of a set of principles and processes that focus on short sprints with defined deliverables and outputs. Our applied innovation exchange is providing business value and enables the business to become more dynamic by winning hearts and minds so everyone in the business is responsible for their part with data.

Our appointed Data Owners are now driving forward data governance and in order to increase our confidence in data we are using our very own Data Governance maturity model and suite of assessments to assess our development and progression which enables focus on areas in greatest need of support and improvement.

The deployment of WISER is supported by key data stewards within the business who work closely with the Data Governance team who commence a series of iterations (also known as sprints) that support the delivery of improvement. This is a truly agile approach to delivery that allows the business to succeed quickly and witness improvements as they’re delivered.

WISER is working to improve the productivity around the use and decision making from data through people, processes and technology. The business today, understands more, just how much of an asset data is. The business has a mature apprehension of data and uses concise language that is aligned to that of an asset; IT assets and data assets are separated; tools such as validation and data dictionaries, standardised business terms are utilised and the business identifies and maintains the condition of data by measuring data quality via key performance indicators.

Some of the outputs to date include:

  • Validation dictionaries provide DCWW with a flexible, centrally managed and automated means of applying multiple scripts in one instance to a database including history and versioning. This supports the creation of KPI scripts, data cleansing and validation activity.
  • Data dictionaries support DCWW’s understanding of its data landscape. This provides us with a maturity that prevents future requirements for third party involvement in system integration or system build projects, thus saving a significant amount of money for the business. Which in turn increases the amount we invest back into the business for the benefit of our customers.
  • Standard business terms have been defined and are in use across the business. They are accessible to colleagues via a central data portal to ensure everyone is using one version of the truth. All business terms are identified and prioritised with support from the data governance team; the production of business terms is driven by the business’ data owners and data stewards. Having a suite of standard business term definitions allows us to support our business planning activity for our price review programme that is business critical and a regulatory requirement. We can now better understand the organisation for which we serve, and there is an improved alignment between the different business areas and a common language is developing that supports a variety of activities both project based and operational day to day activity.

We are creating and embedding a mind-set of quality by focusing on key performance indicators that are accessible to the business via dashboards and supported by our data stewards. This is enabling us to derive the best value from our information, making improvements to data where necessary and monitor the performance and quality. =

As WISER continues to be deployed across the business colleagues will see a major change to the way they can access data and use it for the purpose of data driven decision making. An improved trustworthiness of the data will support decision making, regulatory reporting and limit the need for external support, this is turn will offer opportunities to colleagues and present the business with cost efficiencies.

Frequent data maturity assessments allow us to work with Data Owners to monitor the maturity of the business; providing us with targeted deliverables for each business area that support changes that are taking place, maintaining a course of action that will grow the data maturity of the whole organisation.

In support of achieving a long lasting data quality culture we are engaging with the business in order to establish a Data Academy to support understanding of data responsibility for all employees. The Data Academy will enable company-wide data management capability and responsibilities.

The spread of Data Management capability will be across three core roles within the business, Associates, Champions and Experts.

  • Our Data Associates are individuals who demonstrates passion and energy in wanting to learn and develop their understanding of data, its capabilities and use
  • Our Data Champions are role models who support colleagues and proactively seeks opportunities to improve the data landscape across the organisation
  • Our Data Experts are individuals who have exceptional knowledge of data and the processes by which it is used and understands the impacts of poor data quality on the business

The Data Academy is a critical deliverable for the WISER programme as the opportunity to embed individuals within the organisation who demonstrate passion and energy in wanting to learn and develop their understanding of data, its capabilities and uses. This will support our endeavour to continuously grow our data maturity as an organisation.

We are placing ourselves as one of the leading utility companies for managing data. In order to support delivery, behaviour change and take up of the right tools and ways of working the Data Governance team have established a communications strategy that confirms target audiences who will become data champions and ambassadors to support the new ways of working and encourage the adoption of tools to support critical business activities.

This approach and rollout of Data Governance is essential for any organisation who wish to become data driven and wish to adopt future technologies or even adopt existing technologies to support decision making. Our regulators  have clearly set out their requirements for Water companies to become more data focused and just as Welsh Water find themselves as a ‘data rich’ company there is a need to define what data is available. The ability to find, understand and trust the data is imperative for most organisations, without being able to find your data it is of no use to anybody within the organisation, and if the business is unable to understand the data they run the risk of using the data incorrectly and in order to excel with Data governance and truly become a data driven organisation it is critical the data is trusted, with trustworthy data the organisation is able to make data driven decisions and impact performance whilst delivering excellent service for customers.

Ben Evans is a an experienced Change & Project management professional and certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with experience working at both Senior Executive and Operational levels with over 8 years’ experience creating and delivering change strategies for large scale complex programmes of work with a focus on business transformation, multi-function process improvements, procedure design, system development, strategy deployment and cost effective improvements. Follow Ben on Twitter @funkyBGE

Copyright Ben Evans, Data Governance Manager, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water


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