CDO Matters Ep. 09 | Disrupting Data Governance with Laura Madsen

October 24, 2022

Episode Overview:

The data space isn’t what it was 20 years ago. As enterprises change the way they conduct business, we should also change our traditional approaches to data governance.

In his latest discussion, Profisee Head of Data Strategy Malcolm Hawker talks with Moxy Analytics CEO Laura Madsen to dive deeply into the topic of data governance and discuss Laura’s love/hate relationship with a field that can often defy logic in today’s modern data estates. Laura challenges many of the more traditional approaches to governance that are clearly not working for many companies — most of which have not changed fundamentally in decades. Laura makes a compelling case to “blow it all up” and start completely from scratch with approaches to data governance that are more scalable and adaptable to modern business needs.

Throughout the discussion, Laura takes aim at other data management gold standards, including what she sees as the absurdity of aspiring to a single definition for anything today. Laura advances the idea that data quality is not absolute and that striving for data quality standards that aren’t defined or measured is a fool’s errand. The discussion of data quality not existing without data governance — and vice versa — is an insightful exploration into the critical need to measure and define data quality metrics and standards. Laura highlights the paradox that having one without the other makes it impossible to know if you succeed at either quality or governance.     

Laura highlights other data-related technologies as critical components to enable scale while also acknowledging they cannot “magically solve all of our problems.” The discussion concludes with a focus on the radical democratization of data, a concept that Laura believes is critical to breaking through old, unproductive patterns of data management. In this transition toward data democratization, Chief Data Officers (CDOs) will know they are on the right path when an environment exists for users to question the data, where those questions form the foundation for ongoing data improvements.  

This episode of CDO Matters should appeal to any CDO who feels their data governance program is ill-suited to support their ever-evolving business needs. It should inspire CDOs to revisit their assumptions about data governance — and potentially motivate many to consider some radical changes to governance “business as usual.” Forget what you think you know about single sources of truth, data quality metrics or top-down approaches to governance — Laura Madsen challenges all of these concepts (and more) in this provocative episode of CDO Matters.   

Key Moments

  • [3:18] The Current State of Data Governance
  • [5:23] “I Hate Data Governance”
  • [7:16] Data Governance is Broken
  • [8:45] Illogical Approaches to Data Governance
  • [10:13] Data Stewardship for A Different Era
  • [11:38] Do We Need Centralized “Command & Control”
  • [14:28] Don’t Rely on a Single Definition of Your Data
  • [17:59] Data Quality is Not Absolute
  • [20:23] It’s Difficult to Prove Governance is Working without Data Quality and a Metric
  • [22:33] Leveraging Data Governance Technologies
  • [25:50] The Radical Democratization of Data
  • [28:11] Data Governance Starts with People
  • [29:38] Data Governance is Change Management
  • [30:28] The Gender Gap in Technology

Key Takeaways

The Way We Think about Data Governance Doesn’t Make Sense (4:40)

“When I see something that is wrong or lacking logic — and I do think that a lot of the ways we think about data governance now lack logic in a modern data environment — I just tend to want to blow those things up. There’s a fair part of me that still struggles with data governance as a result…we’re still doing a lot of the [traditional approaches].” — Laura Madsen

Illogical Approaches to Data Governance (7:54)

“I never intended to write a book about data governance. That was never on my radar at all…I was building a modern data platform and I didn’t really care about the landscape. Fast forward, I leave that job…the thing that kept coming back to me was that data governance was the Achilles heel of most programs and our ability to deliver results.” — Laura Madsen

Data Governance for a Different Era (10:23)

“In a space where in the late 90s, most of our data warehouses were maybe a handful of tables…nothing in terms of the construct of data governance changed from the late ‘90s to when I Googled that definition in 2019. Two decades…why are we still doing the same things with data governance in the data space?” — Laura Madsen

The Importance of Context in Data Governance (15:40)

“In what reality do we want everyone to be operating on one definition of something?…I want you to look critically at what you are executing and what is not working…Let [data leaders] have different definitions…When it matters is when you want to have a better sense of management around [definitions].” — Laura Madsen

Focus More on Process, People and Culture than Technology (22:53)

“We [initially] had no tools in this space at all…Data catalogs are changing the game. They help you focus on usage to define your use case…more eyeballs on the data means better data…tools can help us with that, but they cannot solve all of our problems. These are all problems that can be solved with some thinking about process and people and the culture of an organization and way less focus on the technology.” — Laura Madsen

Closing the Gender Gap in Technology (32:53)

“If we’re not willing to face these things and have discussions about them, then we are never going to improve them…We have made improvements and I sometimes think we need to acknowledge at least that…but, we still have a long way to go…it’s intentionality. It’s making yourself uncomfortable, realizing you have some culpability there, and moving forward.” — Laura Madsen

About the Guest

Laura Madsen is the CEO of Moxy Analytics and the author of three books on the topics of BI/Analytics, Data Strategy and Data Governance. With over 20 years in the field, she is a leader in the data and analytics industry and has supported the definition and implementation of data strategies and analytics/governance programs at multiple organizations across the country. She’s a selfless champion for diversity, inclusion and gender equity matters through organizations like Sistech. Laura is also a Halestorm fan, myth-buster, BS caller and has perfected the art of cynicism.

Episode Links & Resources:


How can today’s Chief Data Officers help their organizations become more data-driven? Join former Gartner analyst Malcolm Hawker as he interviews thought leaders on all things data management – ranging from data fabrics to blockchain and more — and learns why they matter to today’s CDOs. If you want to dig deep into the CDO Matters that are top-of-mind for today’s modern data leaders, this show is for you.

Malcolm Hawker
Malcolm Hawker is an experienced thought leader in data management and governance and has consulted on thousands of software implementations in his years as a Gartner analyst, architect at Dun & Bradstreet and more. Now as an evangelist for helping companies become truly data-driven, he’s here to help CDOs understand how data can be a competitive advantage.


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