Many factors are increasing the awareness of and need for data governance in the electric power industry. Internally, utilities want to increase operating effectiveness and reduce costs while making self-service analytics available across the organization.

Externally, the industry faces increased government regulation in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Market demands for accurate, flexible, timely and relevant information are pushing utilities toward more sophisticated brand management. Plus, utilities want to improve vendor and partner engagement.

Without adequate data governance, utilities face challenges related to data access, meaning and validity. Inconsistent access to accurate data impacts the organization’s ability to make timely and informed business decisions and maintain high customer satisfaction. Other challenges related to master/reference data and metadata limit its ability to take advantage of revenue opportunities and implement process improvements.

Challenges of Data Governance

The need for data governance is clear, but achieving it isn’t always easy. The first step is establishing a data governance framework. Essentially, this is a set of rules defining the types of data the utility will collect and how that data will be represented.

Developing the framework requires engagement from the entire organization and should focus on the enterprise’s most valuable use cases. By fostering collaboration across business, IT and leadership, the organization can clarify business objectives, promote the idea that data is a shared asset, develop a common vocabulary and simplify management of the data through its life cycle.

Data governance needs to be viewed as an iterative process, not a one-time project execution line item. The enterprise will always be identifying new data domains. At the same time, existing data assets must be evaluated regularly. The utility should be prepared to dedicate personnel and resources to data governance on an ongoing basis.

The Role of the PMO

Project management may present a significant challenge for utilities implementing data governance. Often, a project management office (PMO) can provide the underlying structure needed to achieve success.

PMOs improve project delivery by enhancing prioritization, eliminating redundancies and allowing for more efficient allocation of available resources. In the case of data governance, a PMO can be instrumental in defining business objectives, facilitating collaboration across the organization and aligning employee responsibilities with data governance priorities.

Utilities dealing with rapid changes in the technology and data landscape may be tempted to jump into data governance too quickly or on too large a scale. Alternately, the organization may complete an initial data governance project and conclude it is done.

A PMO can help leadership be realistic about the organization’s capability to achieve data governance. Often, it is best to start small, redefine data goals as the organization evolves and revise the governance framework to make sure the right data is available when needed. By focusing on your organization’s people, processes and technologies, a PMO can help design and oversee the implementation of a data governance solution that meets your unique needs.


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Bernadette is a senior project manager at 1898 & Co., part of Burns & McDonnell. With 27 years of experience, Bernadette specializes in managing enterprise systems integration projects.