Guest Authored by Rohini McKee, Senior Consultant at UPD Consulting

This fall, a new cohort of education organizations around the country, including state education agencies, school districts, charter management organizations, and county education offices are initiating or expanding their Ed-Fi implementations. Through our years of experience implementing Ed-Fi, we know what makes for a successful implementation: data governance.

What is Data Governance?

Data governance is the management of all available data to ensure that its usability, integrity, and security is maintained within an organization. This work is not about data, but rather the business processes, stakeholders, and decisions around data. It provides checks and balances to ensure data changes are implemented with appropriate oversight and in the best interests of all parties within an organization.

A data governance committee is responsible for making and enforcing decisions around data definitions, sources, and metric calculations, as well as formalizing processes around the maintenance and access to the system, that will allow for a faster and more efficient Ed-Fi implementation.

Large scale systems implementation work usually starts in the IT shop and the programmatic folks who own and use the data are invited into the start of the process but never fully engage with the continued implementation work, either because they are not invited or don’t see themselves as necessary to the process. They see it as an IT initiative without thinking through how their work connects to it.

Then you’re nearly ready to roll out a new system and all of a sudden someone from your curriculum office raises an issue and someone else from your assessment office notices another issue. Now it’s obvious that re-work is required. This is just one example of how a lack of data governance can result in a waste of time and money.

What are the Risks of an Ed-Fi Implementation Without a Data Governance Structure?

  • Time wasted in excessive meetings with an incomplete group of people in the room to make the appropriate data-related decisions
  • Development of tools, implementation of products or strategies that compete with the existing Ed-Fi initiative
  • Siloed decision making that could result in re-work as the implementation is underways
  • Limited buy-in from leadership resulting in lack of engagement and use of Ed-Fi

How to Leverage a Data Governance Structure for Ed-Fi Implementation:

UPD Data Governance Gurus!

Through data governance, you can address data-related issues using an agency-wide lens which will be critical to a successful Ed-Fi implementation. You can and should:

  • Agree upon common definitions for data-related terms across all relevant data users in the organization
  • Assign data stewards to ensure the purpose and use of each data set are known and incorporated appropriately in the Ed-Fi implementation
  • Identify the one source of truth for each data element
  • Decide upon descriptors collectively to avoid rework
  • Ensure systems are documented appropriately
  • Formalize system changes and enhancement processes

What Are Some Best Practices when Implementing Data Governance?

Understand what is already happening.

Chances are your organization is doing some type of data governance already. For example, there is probably a committee already in place who is making decisions around data sources for state reporting. Who is on that committee? Can the scope of the committee broaden to take on more general data governance work? What is working on that committee and how can it be replicated elsewhere?

Start using data governance practices and principles in existing work.

Going from no formal data governance structure to a formalized Data Governance Committee may not be right for your organization. And that’s ok! Instead, start weaving the work of a data governance committee into ongoing meetings and projects. An example may be pointing out the need for coming to an agreement on how to define data terms under discussion.

Remember that change can be scary and needs to be managed.

Leaders at your organization likely understand the need for data governance however the change associated with it may be daunting. It’s important that you apply change management strategies before you even kick off your first DGC meeting. One change management framework to consider is Switch by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. The Heath brothers remind us that:

  • What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity
  • What looks like laziness is exhaustion
  • What looks like a people problem is actually a situation problem

Start small.

Keeping in mind all the changes that a Data Governance Committee will bring to how you do business, don’t try to tackle all data-related pain points at once. Identify one or two “quick wins.” Those are data-related pain points that can be resolved quickly without too much effort. That will help improve buy-in and engagement into data governance which you’ll need when it’s time to work through the big issues plaguing your organization.


Data governance will be a key theme at next week’s Summit. Look out for great sessions on this topic presented by UPD and other Ed-Fi partners!