Gamified Data Governance and Employee Engagement

February 15, 2020
Gamified Data Governance and Employee Engagement

Gamified Data Governance (GDG) refers to an approach to governance that applies game mechanics to increase participation levels and enable performance monitoring. In a GDG program, the responsibility for Data Governance is taken on by the business and IT user community as a whole.

The process uses gamification features, such as points, levels, and awards, to set group targets and monitor the progress of the program through measurable sets of activities and milestones. The first blog in this series defined the need for data governance gamification (Gamified Data Governance: Defining the Need). The second blog introduced how a GDG program can help facilitate an organization’s progression through the levels of the capability maturity model (Gamified Data Governance and the Maturity Model). This blog looks at how gamification addresses the problem of employee engagement.

Employee involvement in data governance programs has traditionally faced a number of challenges:

  • Complexity. This is a general problem with technology, which presents users with ever changing sets of controls, often involving multi-step processes. The array of features on offer can pose a barrier to new users.
  • Scope. The scale of the undertaking can be daunting. Business glossaries are comprised of thousands of terms, each categorized, defined and associated with business policies and rules.
  • Ownership. A shared understanding of business language is essential to the accuracy, efficiency, and productivity of the enterprise. How information is communicated and received is a shared responsibility. When employees have no ownership of that language, communication breaks down.

Gamified data governance addresses these concerns directly:

  1. Keeping it Simple. The gamified approach narrows the focus of user activities, according to the goals of the program. This is done through assigning specific tasks according to roles and through realignment of the user interface to those roles.
  2. Targeting Goals. The full scope of the program is broken down into more manageable units. This can align with strategic goals, such as focusing on a given subject area (for example, Customer information) or focusing on a specific aspect of governance (for example, ensuring that all terms have corresponding business policies identified). A key part of GDG is that these targeted goals are measurable.
  3. Engaging Users. Gamified data governance is a collective activity, with immediate feedback and acknowledgement of each participant’s contribution. The program invites active involvement in making terminology clear and concise, thus providing ownership of the process to participants.

The GDG program revolves around the activities of 3 groups of users, each with a distinct set of tasks to perform.

Group 1: Data Stewards

The primary goal of the data stewards is to enter business terms into the business glossary.  Data stewards are presented with a form allowing them to enter, modify, or delete various aspects of a term. They can also load batches of terms at once.

Group 2: Data Owners

It is the data owners’ job to ensure the quality of business glossary entries. The data owners review and approve or critique selections and entries made by the data stewards. As part of the gamification workflow, these actions are automatically fed back to the data stewards, with email alerts and running scores reflected on a leaderboard.

Group 3: IT Stewards

It falls to the IT stewards to attach data assets to terms. The IT stewards link data points in reports and databases to the business terminology entries. This is an essential step to relate business concepts to usage and to be able to measure data quality in light of the meaning and rules associated with it.

In Loyalty 3.0, Rajat Paharia outlines 5 intrinsic motivators that serve to encourage people to do something for its own sake, rather than because of some external driving force compelling them to do it. He argues that these key motivators are inherent in gamification.

  1. Autonomy. The gamified approach places governance in the hands of the stakeholders, democratizing the process and empowering the participants to define business terminology.
  2. Mastery. Determining names and definitions are creative acts, requiring communication skills that improve with practice.
  3. Purpose. Data governance is a business imperative, and so the purpose of the program is built in.
  4. Progress. The program builds up a body of work, the business glossary, and participants see the measurable progression of their efforts, both in the gamified metrics, (e.g., counting the number of terms being added) and in the daily use of the business glossary throughout the organization.
  5. Social Interaction. Participants in the program engage in the work together, in part through division of labor and also collaboratively through peer reviews. Combining a competitive element through teams and individual acknowledgment also contributes to social interactivity.

Gamification can help to overcome some of the biggest challenges to a successful data governance program: simplifying the process, providing management levers, and engaging users. The GDG program is open to customization and experimentation, providing a mechanism to align an actively engaged set of users with strategic data governance goals.

Stream Integration Data Governance specialist, Eric Landis, was consulted for this article.