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How Complex Databases Are Governed In the Mormon Church : Page 2

In addition to the world's biggest set of genealogies and missionaries in 160 countries, the church has more than 260 centrally managed databases.


5) Figure Out Who in Your Organization Can Help You

Don't fight other groups, Riboldi said -- make alliances with them and offer to help. Riboldi was on the job for six or seven months before he discovered a group within the church working on master data management -- they were programmers and database developers, and Riboldi helped them market their work to the data stewards.

He also found groups working on enterprise architecture, information security, and Web services. Also, don't change what doesn't need to be changed. "With legacy applications, we leave them alone," he said. "Don't stir the pot too much."

Here are Riboldi's five principles for keeping a data governance program running once it's set up.

1) Figure Out What Needs Governing

In other words, not all data is equal. Focus on the data that's easy to govern (reference data, such as currencies), the data that suffers from poorest quality (addresses) and the data that's most requested across the organization (in the church, it's organizational charts, leaders, members and employee facilities). Also look at what data is most often independently duplicated - in the church's case, it's member data -- and figure out how to stamp that duplication out.

2) Data Stewards Can Be Discovered

Find the people who can help you most. Ask around the departments to see who should own that department's data -- who cares about the data the most? Very soon, Riboldi said, "people will point out the guy who knows the rules and is passionate about the data." Once the stewards are approved -- by the Information and Communications Committee, of course -- Riboldi trains them. He's also established a Data Steward's Council to make sure the stewards keep talking to each other.

3) Communicate

Make sure everybody understands how the data governance is done -- publish an explanation of who does what and how it works, along with forms you've designed for people to file to get any data that they need.

4) Select and Develop Tools for Your Program

Deciding on tools can be tricky, Riboldi said -- if you buy them too early, they will define how your program runs, but if you wait too long, your program will suffer from lack of support. Start with something that doesn't cost much -- an Excel spreadsheet or flow chart to show how your program or data is structured, a template in Word for data sharing agreements.

Riboldi also developed a Sharepoint site to archive the data-sharing agreements, since there are more than 200. Another project in the works is a portal that allows people to group and identify their data domains. The next step is a "shareable data package" -- groups of fields in their data stores that they're willing to share.

5) Learn From the Best

And share what you know with others. Consultants can be helpful and can save you a lot of time -- network to meet the best ones. Also, keep your perspective. Data governance is a program, not a project -- a marathon, not a sprint.

"You have to be aware of the doldrums," Riboldi said. "There are going to be times when you feel like you're not making any progress. The bureaucracy can beat you up -- but smile! You're part of the bureaucracy."

Deborah Gage is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about business and technology from Silicon Valley for over 15 years.
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