As a project manager with a background in software development and Agile methodologies, it took me a while to realize that project management in data governance would be somewhat different from what I was used to — compared to projects that focus on the delivery of products.
To better understand how to use project management in data governance (and other information management) projects, I relied on research published by project management platforms, such as the Project Management Institute. I found that information projects, including data-related ones, have the same stages as any other type of project — initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closure — but the difference lies in how each of these stages is conducted.
Project Management Stages
Initiation. Like other enterprise-wide projects, information management projects often have multiple stakeholders and require cross-functional collaboration between various business units. The number and type of stakeholders will vary from industry to industry, but generally, the numbers are more significant for information management projects. The stakeholders range from top company executives to data stewards, unlike in product management projects where the stakeholders are usually a product owner and their direct reports or team.
The role of the project manager (PM) at this stage is to facilitate sessions that are dedicated to identifying all possible stakeholders and/or the creation of a data governance committee that will prioritize the work ahead throughout the project’s duration.
The PM also carries out any administrative tasks related to the project, such as reviewing the contract and organizing project documents.
Planning. Because information management projects are inherently cross-functional, the planning phase is both more critical and more complex. Sometimes, it is difficult to identify all the appropriate stakeholders and they are not aligned on the “definition of success.” Many times, they are not clear at all on their requirements.
To create a schedule and estimate resources, the PM might need to spend more time facilitating sessions where stakeholders are educated and familiarized with other previously executed projects for reference. Once the stakeholders are clear on their needs, schedule and resources can be estimated. However, it is always important for the PM to factor in time and resources for additional work that may come up later, as is usually the case for information-related projects.
Execution. At this stage, the data governance committee has prioritized the work that is needed, and the PM can take over implementation. The PM’s role is to keep an eye on all aspects of the project, including documentation and oversight of the work being done, as well as to make sure the work is staying within scope and budget, troubleshooting when risks and issues arise.
This is the stage where the PM needs to ensure the work remains in line with stakeholder expectations, and this is done through regular reports and retrospective sessions. Because of how diverse stakeholders can be, the PM should be agile in how they communicate to address varying stakeholders’ needs. Although project failure is often associated with resource and budget aspects, failing to communicate appropriately with stakeholders can also lead to a project’s downfall.
Monitoring. This is a critical part of any project that requires the PM to proactively identify and create a plan to address risks throughout the project’s duration. When a PM works with multiple stakeholders, risks (both technical and interpersonal) increase, so they need to anticipate risks and address them before it is too late.
Addressing risks typically requires collaboration with stakeholders and other team members, which means the PM will need to make sure the conversations are productive and lead to effective solutions.
Closure. The preceding project management phases, when fully carried out, ensure the project closes successfully. Here, the PM conducts a final retrospective session with the broader team, including stakeholders, and reviews the project’s initial plan against what was executed.
Project closure is also a great time for the PM to document anything that could improve future projects. The PM will also make sure the documentation and any project-related tools are later accessible to people.
Why Project Management Is Key
It is important to note these are high-level stages that do not encompass all the work done by PMs on information management projects. However, when a data governance or similar data initiative faithfully follows the project stages, there is a greater chance for success.
Project management is a critical element of a data-related program. It provides data professionals with a resource they can rely on for support and a framework to do their work more effectively. Collaboration between data professionals and the PM will lead to a successful project, no matter how simple or complex the initiative.