Demystifying the roles of Data Owners and Data Stewards
Conversations about Data Governance inevitably turn to the question of responsibility and accountability.
As a practitioner community, we seem to have settled on the terms “Owner” and “Steward” to represent two important roles within the Data Governance process. (Sometimes I still encounter the word “custodian” being used, though I’m always wary when anyone describes themself using the “C” word, as it usually indicated someone who is a withholder rather than a sharer…)
However, the specific expectations for such roles are not always fully articulated, can be defined in unclear terms, and may well vary from organisation to organisation.
I suggest that it’s important to encourage clarity of expectations, while also keeping things as simple to understand and practice. A rules-heavy, task-intensive and bureaucratic process is unlikely to gain much traction.
I therefore prefer to focus on behavioural and cultural aspects, with the aim of encouraging a general shift in approach. I offer the following summary key features and expectations of Data Owners and Data Stewards:
Data Owners are:
- Accountable for the effective management of Information Assets
- Must understand the business value of the asset and the way it creates or realises value within all business processes
- Responsible for cross-organisational value of the asset
- Responsible for implementing and maintaining an Information Asset to ensure it is fit for the operational purpose(s) for which it is required
- Responsible for ensuring that an Information Asset has proper quality, security, integrity, correctness, consistency, privacy, confidentiality and accessibility
- Owners should reside within the operational functions of the business.
- Operation of the information asset is delegated from the Data Owner to one or more Data Stewards
- Appointed in cases where Data Owner are not in a position to manage an Information Asset directly. (eg. due to workload or complexity of the Asset).
- Assist the Data Owner in the day to day management of information asset
- Ensure that relevant protocols, principles, methods, processes and standards are applied (In conjunction with the Data Owner and other Data Governance functions)
- Extract maximum value from asset over full lifecycle
- Maintain and enhance value of asset, where appropriate
- Manage the asset within owners expectations and requirements
- Acquisition, creation, maintenance, exploitation, enhancement and disposal (on behalf of the owner)
Note that these responsibilities are often implicit within people’s existing job functions.
By identifying the roles of Data Owner and Data Steward we are really just clarifying expectations and commitment to be mindful in our dealings with data.
What do you think? Have I accurately and fairly identified a salient set of expectation for these key Data Governance roles? Or do you disagree with these concepts? I’d love to hear your views.