How Teamwork Makes the (Data Governance) Dream Work: 3 Pillars for Success

By Anthony Zumpano

Published on October 31, 2023

A close-up image capturing a group meeting where an individual is using an iPad to demonstrate collaborative teamwork within a data governance team.

In many ways, data today holds a significance akin to what fire meant to primitive civilizations. Just as fire was essential for survival, data has become a lifeblood that offers organizations insights, innovation, and fuel for informed decisions. 

In both cases, harnessing and managing these resources is critical. An uncontrolled fire can burn and destroy, while ineffectively governed data leads to poor decisions, a lack of trust, and noncompliance. 

Yet the solution requires more than just sliding another layer into your tech stack. The data governance team has more to do with the project’s ultimate success than even the technology behind it. Those building such teams should carefully consider roles and how they are managed and empowered to run the program.  

In fact, according to the white paper Leadership and Team Formation in Data Governance: A Roadmap for Success, there are many ways to build a data governance program — but they all require strong support and effective teamwork.

The 3 pillars of data governance excellence

The white paper describes the three pillars of a successful data governance foundation:

1. Leadership

Successful programs all share one key element: executive sponsorship. The chief data officer (CDO) or similar role drives the importance of data within the organization by promoting a data-centric culture, increasing data literacy, and championing the purpose of data. Leadership also extends to data sponsors who align executive support and help secure funding for data initiatives. 

2. Teams

Effective data governance involves a range of teams and roles involved with different aspects of data management and stewardship. The collaboration and synergy among these teams are crucial for ensuring data quality, integrity, and alignment with organizational goals. Teamwork also includes assembling committees and councils. By meeting regularly, they bring structure, collaboration, and direction to the data governance strategy. In the long term, data becomes not just a valuable asset but a driving force for innovation and excellence.

3. Approach

Various strategies and methodologies for implementation can ensure effective data governance. Top-down execution starts with a data sponsor and executive buy-in, while the bottom-up approach begins at the grassroots level, addressing specific challenges and expanding from there. A blend of the two uses a bottom-up approach to prove success and then obtain high-level sponsorship for further growth.

Together, these three pillars provide the structural foundation for a successful data governance program. A well-balanced and coordinated effort across these pillars is essential to achieving data governance excellence.

Complicated charter vs. focused framework 

Dave Kellogg is a veteran software CMO, board member, and data-industry thought leader. In a recent episode of the Data Radicals podcast, Kellogg extolled the value of employing a “framework that explains the world in a familiar way.” This applies to data governance, where a streamlined framework — captured in a pitch deck of no more than 10 slides — promotes clarity and actionability.

This is in contrast to an extensive charter drafted by many organizations to capture a comprehensive set of information, but which often becomes a set of bureaucratic check-boxes that distract from the real goal of successful data governance.

A concise framework helps "sell" data governance within an organization, highlighting the role of data governance leaders as advocates for the program's value and benefits. When effectively communicated in a pithy presentation, this framework empowers data leaders to secure buy-in and support from other parts of the business.

The impact of decentralization  

The shift toward decentralization, led by the increasing adoption of data mesh, is reshaping the organizational structures of data stewardship. The centralized model has given way to federated data governance, which distributes data responsibilities across the organization. 

The benefits of federated governance include:


Data experts work closely with teams across the organization, which fosters a culture of data-driven decision-making


Data stewards positioned closer to the frontlines of business operations gain a deeper understanding of specific domains, allowing them to identify and rectify data-related issues more effectively.

Retaining talent

A decentralized approach allows you to retain data-proficient staff within their current business functions, rather than reassigning them elsewhere.


Cross-functional collaboration between colleagues with diverse skill sets and backgrounds can address data challenges and spark innovation.  

Decentralized data governance is a transformative step to harnessing the full potential of data resources, fostering collaboration, and closely aligning data operations with business needs. As the data landscape evolves, adaptability and agility in data governance are keys to success.

Conclusion: Data governance sparked by people  

Data governance isn't just about managing data. It's about shaping a brighter future where data illuminates the way forward, much like fire did for our ancestors. It's a journey of harnessing the power of data, simplifying its complexity, and embracing the decentralized landscape to unlock its full potential. Today, success hinges not only on the technology you employ but also on the teams that drive innovation, ensure data integrity, and promote collaboration. 

To learn more, download the white paper: Leadership and Team Formation in Data Governance: A Roadmap for Success.

  • The 3 pillars of data governance excellence
  • Complicated charter vs. focused framework 
  • The impact of decentralization  
  • Conclusion: Data governance sparked by people  
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