7 Characteristics of an Ideal Data Quality Sponsor
by Dylan Jones, Editor
What are some of the traits that you should look for in an ideal data quality sponsor?
This post examines some of the desirable properties that your data quality sponsor should possess. Not all sponsors will have these of course (unless you’re very lucky) but perhaps you can use it as a benchmark when going out into the organisation to locate preferred sponsors for your next data quality initiative.
If you ask any data quality manager why their project was a success they will invariably cite sponsorship as one of the key contributing factors.
Across many of the data quality forums and conferences that are dedicated to data quality management we see a common thread time after time: sponsors can make or break the long-term success of your data quality aspirations.
So before you seek buy-in for data quality use this list to help you sharpen your search efforts.
1. Respected Across the Ranks
Ideally, your sponsor must be held in high esteem across the organisation or particularly within executive circles. Maverick risk takers may be your first choice but can they hold court with other senior leaders that ultimately need to be convinced?
If your sponsor is not well respected you may find that they have enough clout to get an initial program off the ground but lack the wider influence for longer term impact.
2. Possesses the Right Level of Knowledge
I’ve worked with sponsors in the past who had a deep understanding about the business impacts and benefits of data quality, the exact strategy and roadmap we were undertaking, the systems and operational processes involved – in short, they were a valuable asset.
The flip side is often the case though. Some sponsors are simply out of touch with what you’re trying to achieve and are simply looking for the next bandwagon to ride on.
The problem comes when other senior stakeholders want to find out more and get only vague responses from your sponsor. Often this happens in important steering committees or other executive forums where you only get one shot.
Make sure that you find a sponsor who already has a great deal of knowledge about the business and what you’re trying to achieve. If they don’t, make sure there is a plan in place to educate them because having their support means more than a signature for finance, you need them to communicate your core value proposition to the rest of the organisation.
3. Proficient Networker and Introducer
If your sponsor is a capable networker, particularly at the executive level, this can help considerably. It also helps if your sponsor is well liked within senior management circles. It’s not uncommon for huge turf wars and longstanding personal battles to exist between executives and the last thing you need is for your project to be the focus of this kind of acrimony.
Try to find a sponsor that is well connected with other like-minded executives who are keen to try new ideas and push the organisation forward.
4. Not on a Fast-Track, Transitory Flight-Path
One of the most critical traits of a sponsor is finding someone who will ideally support you for a considerable time. The biggest challenge that can beset any program is when a senior sponsor departs and you’re left in limbo, desperately trying to find a new sponsor to impress.
Ambitious, potentially younger sponsors, may seem the obvious allies but are they on the fast-track? Are they busy looking at the next rung of the ladder?
In smaller organisations this is less of an issue, there is typically “limited stock” from which to choose from so your choices will be limited anyway. In huge corporations there are far more potential sponsors so finding someone well established and unlikely to shift roles in the immediate future should be your goal.
5. Committed to the Vision
How many sponsors have you met who only pay lip-service to an initiative? They give vocal support because it aligns to their own personal agenda but when it comes to attending meetings, gathering support and investing their time they are found lacking.
A committed sponsor has a track record of investing their time in initiatives. If a prospective sponsor says they’re right behind the project and are keen to be a supporter but can give no practical involvement because of their schedule then this should raise alarm bells.
Committed sponsors commit time, not just lip-service.
6. Effective Communicator at all Levels
Effective sponsors are able to take the value that your data quality program provides and articulate this in different ways to different stakeholder groups within the organisation.
It’s not uncommon to find highly knowledgeable sponsors who struggle to communicate your value. It’s imperative that your sponsor can get across the benefits that your team brings, not just to an executive crowd but also to the workforce as most sponsors will have multiple departments under their control.
7. Leads by Example
Your ideal sponsor will not only talk about the value of data quality, they must demand it within their own area of operation.
For example, does your CFO sponsor push for regular measurement and improvement of data quality across the information that they consume?
Does your COO encourage their operational heads to undergo orientation and training to understand the leadership requirements for data quality management. Are they ensuring that the vision is becoming a reality in their own teams and departments?
A sponsor is not just a big name you can tag your project on, they have to actively embrace the vision and roadmap for data quality by demanding a roadmap of implementation in their own sphere of control.
Image credits: Flickr via GDC Control