VP, Data Strategy & Governance
As immense amounts of data are being generated across the enterprise, Chief Data Officers (CDO) have identified data governance as their top priority for the second year in a row. While striving to build data governance frameworks that improve efficiencies and drive decision-making, many data and analytics leaders are being stifled by a lack of resources and minimal adoption of a data-driven culture.
Genevy Dimitrion, Vice President of Data Strategy & Governance at Humana and Co-Chair of Evanta’s Boston CDO Community, has over a decade of experience creating data governance programs across numerous industries, and for the past three years, she has been transforming Humana’s data governance practice. Dimitrion shared how Humana is creating a movement for data accountability to tackle some of the most common data governance challenges.
Building Trusted Partnerships
Dimitrion emphasized that it takes a village to be successful with data governance; however, some business stakeholders show resistance when they do not understand the value of data as it pertains to their needs. She stated, “Data governance requires building trust and partnerships. You really must connect with people and make them know that you're there to help them solve a problem.”
Dimitrion mentioned as a first step, CDOs need to acknowledge that they have taken on an ambiguous and difficult role. At Humana, she specifically focuses on eliminating ambiguity to effectively collaborate with her peers across the enterprise. Dimitrion says that breaking down these barriers is a long game, and that thick skin and soft skills are necessary.
She stated, “You're not going to get immediate wins, so you must recognize the qualities within yourself… You're going to learn and listen from your partners and then iterate as you go.”
Know your value as a CDO. You have access to information that can help make quantifiable decisions, and then use that to your benefit.”
This approach is helping Dimitrion and her team makes strides with their partners, and she shared their sentiments, saying, “Many of the business areas indicated to me that the approach the team took provides them with the confidence around our ability to execute and that we're partners that listen and that their success is the end goal.”
Creating Connections for Data Accountability
Dimitrion “looks at data like a puzzle” and came to understand that creating connections between data producers and consumers is at the core. “A lot of people see the data governance office as yet another process to follow. I’m all about making direct connections, the two people who need to talk should be talking, and I’m here to help them.”
Dimitrion explained that her team typically is involved when there is a gap or they uncover data that is not governed, and they need to find the right owners. She explained, “We engage to understand the different business areas, figure out the right place for data, mediate things, align on definitions, etc. We try to allow the data stewards to be more accountable, and then, we provide the needed support as partners.”
The individuals we support know that we treat their data with respect and use it to help advance their [customers] care. We ensure we have accountability for that data by understanding how it can be used and shared to fit the needs of each individual we serve.”
Dimitrion highlighted that CDOs cannot utilize a one-size-fits-all approach. At Humana, they have a formal Data Governance Leadership Council, where membership is accountable for driving the data strategy for the company, but Dimitrion also works individually with each area to ensure they are not setting unrealistic goals for teams.
She said, “I can't force everybody to fall into the same box. Working with each person to clearly articulate and set an achievable scope that shows incremental value, that's a win for the long game.”
With uncertainty in the marketplace and so many stakeholders, Dimitrion asserted that CDOs should never expect perfection from their data governance framework and just focus on the data, explaining, “Data is constantly changing. Companies are constantly evolving. People change jobs. You're always iterating. I make sure my obligation is to the data, I'm accountable to the data, and the data has the care that it needs.”
Fostering Data Stewardship
Humana adopted a federated model, relying heavily on data stewards to support its data governance framework. Persuading employees across the organization to volunteer their time to this practice takes a strategic effort, and they go to great lengths to change preconceived notions about this role. These are some of the ways they are recruiting new data stewards, providing onboarding and assistance, and offering visibility and recognition to keep stewards engaged.
Recruiting Data Stewards
Dimitrion adjusted their data-driven culture to focus on “joining the movement” to improve participation. Being transparent and having open and honest dialogues with the community motivates employees to engage. She added, “The people who are part of the movement with me are bringing other people along. That's success to me.”
Support for Data Stewards
It is critical to provide data stewards with proper training, tools and support to nurture and drive accountability. At Humana, they take this to the next level as they aspire to create a true sense of community - with communication at the foundation. Roles and responsibilities for data stewards are clearly defined, and they all undergo rigorous training.
The program encourages self-advocacy and aims to “provide a safe space for them to share and raise issues.” This includes access to various communication tools and biweekly meetings to express concerns or request additional resources. They are also provided with data quality tools to document issues and identify remediation plans.
As they embrace community, Humana engages with data stewards in various channels, creating promotional campaigns and email newsletters to distribute relevant content that can help them advance in their roles and build trust as partners. Dimitrion shared that they recently launched a campaign where they promoted data fitness checks to improve data quality.
Visibility and Recognition
Data governance success rides on the work of data stewards and IT Custodians, and Dimitrion stresses that it is imperative for leaders to promote visibility and appreciation to those thriving in these positions. She stated, “We have to nurture and grow these people, and grow their profile and visibility because they are the ones that are managing the data.”
To be successful. It's about recognizing the people in the company that must do the work, those unsung heroes. So, it's really about being an advocate for them.”
Furthermore, each year their data governance achievements culminate at their annual Data Governance Day. During this time, they issue Data Steward Excellence Awards - the “Stewy Awards” - and they bring in senior leaders to reinforce the work they are doing.
Enhance Your Data Governance Framework
Whether you are looking to improve your data governance practice or are starting from scratch, Dimitrion shared five questions to ask yourself to ensure you are on the right track:
- Do you know who your partners are?
- Do you understand their issues and how you are helping them?
- Have you defined success criteria for them?
- Do you have the right metrics or ability to evidence that you are succeeding?
- Have you articulated your path to success and whom you need to rely on to get there?
Special thanks to Genevy Dimitrion and Humana.
Genevy Dimitrion, VP, Data Strategy & Governance at Humana is a Co-Chair of Evanta’s Boston CDO Community, and she was a featured speaker at Evanta’s Boston CDO Executive Summit this spring in a session entitled, “Driving Data Governance – Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All.” To hear from and connect with CDO peers on mission critical topics, such as data governance, join your local Evanta Community and reserve your spot at one of Evanta’s Executive Summits, Town Halls, Peer Roundtables or Inner Circle dinners this year.
by CDOs, for CDOs
Join the conversation with peers in your local CDO community.