Jane Largen-Ruzicka, director of WashU’s Office of Data Governance (ODG), came to the university in August 2021, bringing nearly 30 years of global business and data governance experiences. Charged with implementing a formal data governance strategy for the university, she shares her passion for data governance, her vision of its role at WashU, and how the Student Sunrise project can help bring it to life.
What has inspired you to seek a career in data governance?
JLR: “I started my career as a production biochemist, so I spent a lot of time in the lab at the bench. I got used to meticulously documenting everything we did because people come and go. But when I transitioned to working in operational areas, I noticed there wasn’t as much rigor in terms of documentation. This ultimately caused problems when we needed to upgrade systems or share information for analysis.
So, I’ve seen firsthand the critical role strong data management plays in the success of large, complex organizations and what happens when you don’t carefully manage this important asset. These experiences have evolved into a career of helping businesses, and now WashU, put in place good governance processes to ensure accurate, consistent and trustworthy data are available, which in turn improves decision making.”
What drew you to this position at WashU?
JLR: “Living in St. Louis for the last few decades, I’ve always admired WashU and have family that are alumni. The challenge of implementing a data governance strategy in such a complex and decentralized environment was incredibly intriguing to me. I have seen firsthand how adopting and embedding governance processes makes such a sustainable impact. And there is so much potential for better data governance practices to be woven into the fabric of our institution overall at WashU, particularly now as we consolidate and update so many of our systems.”
What will data governance look like at the university?
JLR: “There’s no one perfect way to design and implement a data governance strategy. While every organization is different, the foundational elements of data governance are the same, and standing up one at an organization this large takes time and patience. The pacing is so different in higher education. In corporate settings, the pace is much more rapid. WashU is very relationship-based, consensus-driven and values everyone’s opinion, which I love, but this means it takes a bit longer to see progress. While I don’t think data governance is new to WashU as a concept, the formal structure of its practices and methodologies are, and that means we need to move at a pace that is more digestible to our community.
So much of what we know about our data at WashU is either undocumented knowledge or documented but not accessible. Both of which create a lot of inconsistencies when we have to use data.
The key things I want to see at the university, at least in the near term, are a very thorough understanding of data governance as a concept and what it means to put it into a sustainable practice, as well as the continued development and expansion of our data stewardship structure.
Stewardship is critical and the primary way data governance occurs. Data stewards are individuals who represent the different kinds of data we have at WashU and are charged with ensuring its consistency, accuracy and quality. Some of these individuals are already in place in areas like finance and human resources, but in other areas, we’re still identifying these individuals.
One of my first opportunities for this work has been with the Student Sunrise project, which is focused on systems and processes related to our student data. Our team is working with the project to build a glossary that houses key academic and student-related terms and data elements both within Workday Student and across the university. With clearly defined terms, we can ensure alignment as we configure the new system.”
What are some of your goals for data governance?
JLR: “We have a lot we want to accomplish in 2022. Four areas of focus this year include:
- Educating the university about the role of data governance and the strategy we want to implement at WashU
- Establishing and supporting our data stewardship community
- Increasing the use of Collibra, which is our system for managing, among other things, our data definitions
- Supporting the Student Sunrise team as they build out their data term glossary
Collibra now integrates with Workday to help enhance reporting. Everyone with a WUSTL key has access to this resource. For those interested in learning more, we host Collibra & Coffee every Friday at 8:30 via Zoom. It’s a great way for our data stewards to build their knowledge and skills with Collibra and create a community around data governance.
Finally, I want to make sure my team has a seat at the table for any pertinent data-related conversations that require governance oversight. We are here to help by ensuring data governance is well understood and embraced. So whether you are data producers or data consumers across this institution, we want you to reap the benefits of good governance practices helping to deliver the best in class data accuracy, trustworthiness and quality.
In five years, I think we’ll look back on this journey and be pretty proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, not just as a new function, but collectively as an institution, too.”
To learn more about the ODG and its strategy, please visit the data governance website.
To learn more about how the work of the ODG impacts the Student Sunrise project, please visit the Sunrise data governance webpage or check out our article on data governance’s partnership with Student Sunrise.