Data Desk: From BI Backlog to Data Governance

Posted Thursday, November 16th, 2017 by Cindy Villamil, Sterling Talent Solutions

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Data Desk: From BI Backlog to Data Governance

Hello again! In our last data desk blog, we talked about the use of analytics and the importance of good data to make the most of it.  I was recently asked to speak about Sterling Talent Solutions’ journey to data governance at the MDM (Master Data Management) & Data Governance Summit in New York City. For any of you who are trying to drive awareness or strategy around data governance, you know this is no easy feat. According to TechTarget, “Data governance (DG) is the overall management of the availability, usability, integrity and security of data used in an enterprise. A sound data governance program includes a governing body or council, a defined set of procedures and a plan to execute those procedures.” This encompasses data quality, where or how people can access data, and the validity of the data.

The Need for Data Governance

Sterling’s path to data governance developed organically from finding solutions for other data issues that arose. One of the problems that arose is one many of you may be able to relate to high demand for data and a business intelligence (BI) backlog. When I started at Sterling, the company had recently released a set of reports that would now be available to clients and their account managers, to give everyone more insight into their programs and open orders. Sound familiar? They are the same reports I was referring to in the last blog! These reports were a solution to the large quantity of report requests that came in on a weekly basis for our reporting team to fulfill. However, while clients now had access to most of the data they needed, and their requests went down significantly, there were still many reporting requests coming in from Sterling’s account teams. These requests were a little more complicated to satisfy than those from clients was because they could come from several different databases.

Over the last ten years, Sterling has acquired or merged with ten other organizations, the most recent being SureID. This means that not only did we inherit those organizations’ clients, but also their systems, databases, etc. We very quickly grew the number of different locations from which data could be requested. For security reasons, everyone could not be given access to every database. And to top it off, most of the people requesting these reports did not know SQL or some other database query language. What did we do? We slowly started introducing the more frequently used databases into a business intelligence tool giving people access not to pre-made reports, but to the data itself so that they had the ability to create whatever they wanted from the data and better yet, to iterate on it.

Creating a Single Version of Truth

What we found was that the more people used the data, the more questions they had about it. Because we inherited a variety of systems, the same data had similar titles, or sometimes the same titles were given to two different data elements. Don’t get me started on the metrics: there are evidently many ways to calculate turnaround time in the background screening world. All of these questions, however, brought us to a key conclusion at Sterling: we needed to establish a single version of the truth created and defined by a small group. How are we doing this? We set two goals:

  1. Create a small group to define a single version of truth: This group would bring together subject matter experts into a data governance committee. Doing so will also identify Sterling leaders who understand the importance of data governance.
  2. Define the single version of the truth: The group is tasked with creating an enterprise business glossary. They also will create data dictionaries for systems and mappings between them.

Once data definitions and mapping are complete, the information is brought into our data governance and metadata management tool. Everyone who uses data via the self-service BI tool will now also have a self-service location to see where the available data points come from and what they mean. Ideally, this will also help drive the creation of new metrics and analytics that people did not realize were previously possible to help improve Sterling Talent Solutions’ overall service.

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