Who needs a data governance tool?

Recently Sunil Soares has released a Research Report being An In-Depth Review of Data Governance Software Tools. Link to the place to download the complimentary report is here.

The report examines what a data governance software tool should do and mentions a range of tools from vendors stretching from:

  • A pure play data governance tool vendor as Collibra
  • A one-stop-shopping vendor within data management as Informatica
  • A none-stop-shopping vendor within everything IT as IBM

MDMDG 2013 wordleAs touched in the latest post on this blog, how far a tool should go in covering additional disciplines related to the core discipline is an ever-recurring question. Data governance should for example definitely be a part of a Master Data Management (MDM) programme, here using the British English way of spelling programme versus program to emphasise what MDM should be. As data governance is very much about people and processes and not so much about technology, do you need a tool at all? If you do, do you need a separate best-of-breed tool for the data governance part or will it be preferable to have it as an integrated part of the MDM solution?

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9 thoughts on “Who needs a data governance tool?

  1. sophie 11th February 2014 / 18:27

    what about Varonis?

  2. John Owens 11th February 2014 / 23:18

    Hi Henrik

    One answer would be that depends on what you mean by “Data Governance” – which is very often unclear.

    However, if we take the definition given in Wikipedia, then the answer is definitely a “No”. Data Governance in this sense is not something that can be held in a tool; it has to be an integral part of everything that the enterprise does.

    It needs to be in the DNA of the Elementary Business Functions (EBF) of the enterprise as it is the EBFs that create, use and transform all data within the enterprise. It is in the proper execution of the EBFs that data governance is enacted.


  3. Stan Christiaens (@stichris) 11th February 2014 / 23:43

    Dear John,

    I agree with you that it should be an integral part of everything that the enterprise does.

    However, I must disagree that a tool is not needed. When you look at all the detailed activities often performed under the label of Data Governance and/or Data Stewardship (coordination, communication, business glossary set up, policy management, escalation, issue management, ….) software becomes necessary just to keep it all manageable or even feasible in complex environments.

    I’d be happy to provide a variety of examples and use cases.

    Kind regards,


  4. Michele Arpaia (@mensetopera) 12th February 2014 / 00:37

    Hi Henrik,
    the tendency to lean towards technology to solve business problems is indicative of organizations less likely to reap benefits. In my view, vendors should be less product-centric…or is this an oxymoron? I seriously think that there’s room here for improvement.

  5. John Owens 12th February 2014 / 05:04


    I agree that a tool is necessary but this should be a CASE tool that models business functions and data – not a data governance tool! All of the data definitions for an enterprise should be embedded in the definitions for a) the Business Functions Model (BFM) and b) the data entities and attributes that support the execution of the Business Functions. These data definitions will form the Logical Data Model (LDM).

    The definitions for the Elementary Business Functions (EBFs) will contain the definitions of both business and processing rules and how they act on data. The data elements, format and structure will be defined by the LDM.

    Practicing data governance as a pseudo independent discipline makes about as much sense as removing an organ from your body and expecting to survive and still perform its original function.

    Kind regards

  6. Jan Erik 12th February 2014 / 07:09

    @Sophie. Great answer 🙂

  7. garymdm 12th February 2014 / 08:27

    who needs a washing machine – when I first moved into my own home i washed my clothes by hand. I mean, I could do it but it was a bitch. Write off a day….

    Tools serve a simple purpose of allowing you to do more stuff, more quickly and with less effort.

    Of course, if you automate poor business practices you end up doing bad stuff quickly.

    Same debate as discussed here:

  8. John Owens 12th February 2014 / 11:03

    @Gary I think that we all agree that we should use tools. I have been using CASE tools for over 30 years now and would argue that they are absolutely essential for effective business modelling.

    However, that is only true of the right tools. Using the wrong tools, for example those that extract data governance and data quality from the business function model and the logical data model, is actually destructive.

    Just as with your example, a washing machine is a tool that will definitely be a great help with washing your clothes. However, using another tool, such as a food blender, to do so would definitely not benefit your wardrobe.


    • Mohit 8th April 2014 / 13:14

      John, I completely agree. I am a data modeler and for the past 20 years or so I have always integrated the functions of Data Governance such as MDM, Metadata, Business Glossary and Data Quality related business rules into CASE tools. Who is better qualified to do this than the logical modelers? I have often encountered issues with folks on a separate data governance team who end up not understanding the concept of single version of truth and provide the incorrect information to folks downstream. As a modeler, I will ask a question in many different ways to ascertain if two people are talking about the same concept or totally different. If you fail at this, then what is the point of all the data governance tools and policies in the world that you can throw at this problem? And how can a tool help in this case?
      Further, It has been very easy to produce detailed reports quickly from the information stored in the CASE tools to satisfy the needs of any one in the enterprise.
      So that leaves the policy setting and coordination as the only functions of the data governance that are not part of the CASE tool. And as you correctly point out, do we really need a tool for these functions?

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