Data Management

How to Build an Effective Data Management Project Plan

Scott Norris

January 4, 2024

data management strategy

There are a myriad of definitions of what a data management plan, or DMP, is and what it entails. These definitions often vary slightly between organizations, but the goal is the same—to create a document specifying how data is managed throughout the lifecycle of a project. It’s a necessary step to ensure that everyone throughout your organization who uses data follows established policies to ensure data integrity and security.

In essence, a comprehensive data management plan is a living document that covers the required data sources, governance, policies, access, management, security, and other components that come into play for using data. The plan also includes how data should be integrated, used, and stored for a project, use case, business application, or other purpose.

The plan is needed to ensure data meets your quality and usage requirements to deliver trusted outcomes. At a corporate level, you need to create a detailed plan to guide and govern your data usage, and have a modern data platform in place that allows you to manage your data while making it easily accessible to everyone who needs it.

Essential Components of a Data Management Plan

It’s best to think of the data management plan as a policy. A best practice is to define your goals and use cases for how you plan to utilize the data, and then create your plan based on those needs. You can always update the plan as requirements change.

Categorizing data can help inform the plan by answering questions such as:

  • What are you planning to do with the data?
  • Does the data format need to change?
  • How do you want to store the data?
  • What is the expiration date of the data?
  • Does the data set meet your usage requirements?

Based on your use cases and requirements, you may need to have a separate data policy for each project. The policies will probably be similar, and you can have a general overall data management plan that serves as the foundation for one-off plans that can be customized to meet a specific use case’s unique needs. For example, a plan may need to cover how data is managed to meet GDPR, HIPAA, or personally identifiable information (PII) requirements.

Likewise, the plan must meet the compliancy mandates of applicable countries or regions. This can get complex very quickly. That’s because some states, such as California, have their own data privacy laws that must be followed. Because policies and compliance mandates can change over time, the data management plan must be a live document that can be easily updated to meet evolving requirements.

The plan also needs to cover storage, backup, and security for the data. How and where will you store your data? In the cloud, on-premises, or a hybrid environment? How often will the data need to be backed up, and by what method? In addition, will the security methods meet your compliance requirements?

In addition, the data management plan should cover how you will monitor contextual details, such as metadata. In certain industries, such as pharmaceuticals, the data lineage is important to back up certain theories and study outcomes, so it must be part of the plan.

Keep a Strong Focus on Data Quality

Ensuring data meets your quality standard is key and, therefore, must be included in the plan. The data management plan should cover how data is ingested, integrated, updated, and profiled to ensure it meets the quality you need. The plan should also include criteria for determining when data should be deleted.

It’s up to each organization to set the quality standard for their data, but every company must share this standard with all data users—and ensure the standard is enforced to avoid data quality being compromised. At Actian, we fully understand the need for quality data that establishes trust from internal users, customers, and partners. If there is an issue, the first step is to trace the problem to the root cause to see if established policies in the data management plan were followed.

Creating a detailed plan is only part of the overall task of delivering trusted data. The other part is to educate data users about the policies, protocols, tools, and data platform to ensure everyone understands what’s required of them and how to handle any issues that arise. Training may also be required to show business analysts and others how to use the platform and data tools to maintain data quality and get the best results.

Regardless of how detailed the plan is, every data user has a responsibility to make sure they are following company protocols and that their devices that are connected to the data ecosystem meet company policies. Going outside the plan or taking shortcuts, such as creating or using data silos, can compromise data quality. At Actian, we often talk about the fact that poor data quality is a detriment to a company and its position in the marketplace, while making quality data readily available drives new and sustainable value.

Data Champions Should Own the Data Plan

Depending on the size of your company, either a person or a team will need to own the data management project plan. Generally speaking, the plan should fall under the auspices of the data and analytics team, but actual ownership is typically high up in the food chain. The CTO or CIO will usually designate a data champion—an individual or small group—who understands the current and emerging business needs and can facilitate data management policies.

This top-down approach to owning the plan helps ensure that ever-growing data volumes meet your company’s actual requirements. For example, a data engineer can put any system in place to collect data, but without a detailed understanding of how the data will be used, the engineer’s approach may not align with how the CTO or CIO plans to leverage, manage, and govern it.

The owners of the data plan will need to regularly review it to ensure it meets current needs, which often change and evolve as new data and use cases become available. The plan should also stay current on protocols for determining who can access the data, and from where. This is important in hybrid work environments when employees may need to access data remotely.

You naturally want data to be easily and readily available to everyone who needs it, but not accessible to those without proper authorization. This approach promotes a data-driven culture, but helps safeguard against unauthorized data access.

Protecting your data is an important part of the plan. This not only includes keeping it secure against potential internal breaches, but also covers incidents that are unlikely to happen, yet still possible. For instance, if someone mistakenly forgets their laptop at the airport, what’s the process for ensuring data access is not compromised? The data management plan should cover these types of scenarios.

Communicate Policies and Share the Plan

For the plan to be truly effective and have the most impact, it must be shared with everyone who uses data or is involved in data-gathering processes. The effectiveness of the plan comes down to how well it’s communicated to internal teams and data users. There’s a valid reason for creating the plan—and everyone needs to be aware of it, embrace it, adhere to it, and view it as the valuable resource it is.

Actian can help customers build and implement a comprehensive data management project plan and offer best practices for making it easily shareable across the organization. Our experts can create a plan from a data platform point of view that covers data ingestion, integration, quality, usage, security, and other key factors.

Our Actian Data Platform offers new data quality and profiling capabilities to give business analysts and others complete confidence in their data. With more data to manage and more sources to connect to, you need a scalable platform that can meet today’s data needs by providing fast query speeds at a competitive price point, which our data platform delivers.

We can help you strategically and effectively connect, govern, and manage your data to inform business decisions, automate processes, and drive other uses. Try the Actian Data Platform for free for 30 days to experience for yourself how easy it is to use and the value it offers. Have questions on creating a detailed plan for your specific needs? Talk to us. We’re here to help.

Additional resources

Scott Norris

About Scott Norris

Scott is an accomplished, versatile, and results-driven IT professional with over 30 years of expansive success as a Program Manager, Services team lead, Solutions Architect and System Engineering roles. His expertise is in program/project management, internal/external training, pre-/post-sales, client management, system architecture design, and application development.