Leadership Strategies

How CIOs Are Successfully Driving Data Excellence

Follow these 3 peer examples to better execute data governance.
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Data governance has taken on a new urgency in the digital economy for two reasons: 1) Increasingly, business decisions are influenced or made outright by automated systems driven by analytics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence that require trustworthy, high-quality data for good results; 2) Regulatory scrutiny of data integrity and access controls is now more frequently required to meet security, privacy, and ethics requirements.

The new approach to making data governance a sustainable capability is to focus initially on a small number of data elements that drive the highest business value and to embed data stewardship in day-to-day work processes.

CIOs need to understand and communicate the importance of data governance in business decisions, regulatory compliance, and digital transformation initiatives.

How do CIOs who are having success in this area handle data governance?

Peer Example #1:

Richard Williams, senior vice president and CIO at Celgene, a $13 billion global biopharmaceutical company in Summit, New Jersey, describes his company’s successful two-pronged approach to data governance. First, Celgene has identified key data domains, such as customer, product, worker, or supplier. “Around those domains we’ve defined the enterprise-wide attributes that require consistent treatment,” Williams says. “You can append additional attributes to that domain, but we’ve identified a set of core attributes of the domain that will be managed at an enterprise-wide level.”

Also, Celgene addresses data stewardship with an enterprisewide approach. “As new attributes are defined, or where there’s a request for an attribute, it goes to a cross-functional team,” says Williams. “The team members keep the integrity of that data structure across the enterprise.”

Peer Example #2:

Children’s Mercy Hospital: David Chou is the chief information and digital officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital based in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers. Chou says that a key goal of digital transformation is “to utilize data to make real-time decisions. Data governance is a crucial piece of that. At the same time, I see a lot of organizations get bogged down with data governance. So finding that right balance is going to be crucial.”

Peer Example #3:

At Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital, there’s a data governance committee, made up of the “super users” of data, which meets every two weeks to exchange ideas about solving data problems. The hospital also leverages the data governance features of its vendor-provided data analytics platform. Data governance, by definition, means setting policies. But David Chou, the hospital’s chief information and digital officer says, “We try to set the policy loosely enough to where it doesn’t hamper agility. We focus on how you get access to data, and how to utilize the data that matter, rather than locking things down so tight that people can’t function.” For example, a “very simple, loose policy can be something like: we’re willing to share anonymized clinical data as long as we provide it in a manner that’s beneficial to the patient from a research perspective.”


  • CIOs should help employees view data as a valuable asset — not just in their department but across the entire organization.
  • Educate employees that data governance, including data quality, is a foundational building block for digital transformation.
  • Convey the need for high-quality data to feed data-driven decisions.
  • Tie data governance to compliance with regulations, such as Europe’s privacy regulations, although this should not be the sole driver for data governance.

Looking for more guidance on driving data excellence?

Take a look at the latest on-demand web conferenceData Excellence: Jumpstarting Critical Analytics Initiatives, for ways to get more out of your data.

Serge Findling is Vice President of Research with IDC's IT Executive Programs (IEP) and the CIO Agenda program. Serge focuses on digital transformation leadership for business and technology executives. He also manages IDC's Information and Data Transformation practice, helping organizations successfully weather and capitalize on the changes brought about by today's disruptive transformation in information management.