Bio: Davida Berger is the founding president of the Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO), a non-profit association of business, IT and data professionals dedicated to advancing the discipline of data governance. Berger also is president and founder of DebTech International LLC, a training and conference production organization focusing on data management and data governance. She serves as the program chair for the Data Governance and Information Quality Conference, the Data Governance Financial Services Conference and the Data Governance Winter Conference; and has served on the executive boards of several DAMA (Data Management Association) chapters and DAMA International. Berger is the recipient of the 2002 DAMA International Achievement Award, based on her contribution to education for information management professionals. She is a co-founder of the Meta-Data Professional Organization.

About Data Governance Professionals Organization: The DPGO is a non-profit, vendor-neutral association of business, IT and data professionals dedicated to advancing the discipline of data governance. The organization strives to be the primary resource for practitioners working in data governance by providing a virtual and social networking community for data governance professionals to connect and share experiences.

NTT Com: What sparked the founding of Data Governance Professionals Organization?

Berger: In my real life, I’m a conference producer. We started running events about data governance some years ago. People attend conferences for many different reasons. But what I saw at the data governance conferences that I hadn’t seen at other events was the real desire of attendees to follow up with each other afterward to continue the networking. Data governance seems to be an area where people are very interested in finding out what other organizations do. For many companies, they are just getting started on data governance.

So I brought together a group of speakers — all from organizations, not professional presenters — to see what they thought about organizing a networking group related to data governance. Most of these people were director level or higher, and they had already implemented data governance with some level of success. They said that they would value an organization that would allow them to share stories of the work that people were doing at other organizations in this space.

We have used webinars and teleconferences, where we have three or four professionals from various organizations who share what they are doing with a particular data governance issue. The organization has taken off. We were founded in December 2011; now we have about 350 members representing nine countries.


NTT Com: Who is the typical member of DGPO?

Berger: We have both professionals who focus on data governance in their role and more general IT professionals who are trying to become more educated about data governance issues. But primarily, our members are working in data governance; they are people who either are or want to be data governance professionals. Most of our members have significant experience in IT and in the business community. Many are senior solutions architects or manager level and higher.

We are committed to promoting data governance as a discipline that is separate from data management and other areas of IT. We don’t see a lot of technical professionals from IT in our membership because data governance is not really their focus.

Big data is affecting everyone. The topic needs to be addressed when an organization develops a data governance program.

NTT Com: You mention the idea of distinguishing data governance from data management. What are the differences between these disciplines?

Berger: This can become a bit of a religious war sometimes. Many people ask whether good data management is, in fact, data governance. The answer is no. There are many definitions of what data governance means. As an organization, we are working to define what a data governance professional is because it does mean different things to different people.

To me, I see data management as the management of data assets within an organization. Data governance, on the other hand, is more about putting controls, rules and practices in place around the data and how it is moved. In many organizations, data governance also involves regulations that have been mandated to them.


NTT Com: Are companies starting to identify a key individual who is responsible for data governance, or is this role fulfilled by various IT professionals within the organization?

Berger: Most of the organizations that are successful with data governance have a separate area that is responsible for data governance. One thing about data governance that is different from other IT functions is that the business is extremely concerned with this, and in many cases the role is encouraged by the business functions. IT does not have to sell data governance to the business. This goes back to the legal challenges faced by companies through regulations. They are looking for ways to best manage their risk related to their data.


NTT Com: What topics seem to be of greatest concern to your members now?

Berger: Our members are most interested in case studies. They want to know how other organizations got started in data governance and what they themselves need to begin their focus on data governance. They want to learn how to build the data governance organization.

The other topic they are interested in is the stewardship of data. They want to know how to build a data stewardship community within their organizations, where people feel they already have a lot of work and can’t take on new responsibilities.


NTT Com: What are the biggest challenges related to data governance that companies are facing right now?

Berger: For companies that have not had strong data management, and now realize that they need to develop data governance policies, this is imposing control where there previously was none. This can be a little threatening and it can become a bit political. At our conferences, presenters discuss the human dynamics of change, how to handle politics and how to communicate. In general, and not just related to data governance, you have to be able to talk the language of the business, not just technology. But this is particularly true of topics like data management and data governance. Though data governance is not like other IT topics. In my former life, I was a manager of data architecture and I spent a lot of time trying to sell ideas to the business. With data governance, it seems that the business really understands the need, and so selling it is much easier. In some ways, it is already in their language and is not terribly technical.


NTT Com: How is the increased interest in mining big data for business intelligence affecting data governance professionals?

Berger: Big data is affecting everyone. The topic needs to be addressed when an organization develops a data governance program. At this point, I personally know of very few organizations that have specific governance around big data. But we are beginning to see the start of this.


NTT Com: What skills seem to be most critical to successfully meet the challenges faced by today’s data governance professionals?

Berger: This is one of the things that we are addressing right now. In general, you need a strong background in data management and meta-data management, which is very big right now. But you also need the people skills. Right now, there is some controversy over the need for certification. At this point, we haven’t found a certification that we endorse, though I believe that the industry will go this direction. But in many ways, data governance is immature right now. Many of these definitions and standards are developing, and we are helping to do that. We offer an opportunity to learn about the discipline of data governance and to help define the profession.


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