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 process but never fully engage with the work. 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 in place?

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

In what ways can you leverage a data governance structure to support your Ed-Fi implementation?

  • 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

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