What is data stewardship?
Data stewardship is the practice of ensuring an organization’s data is accessible, trustworthy, usable, and secure. It oversees every stage of the data lifecycle: creating, preparing, using, storing, archiving, and deleting duplicates, in accordance with an organization’s established data governance principles for promoting data quality and health.
Data stewardship encompasses:
- Knowing and documenting what types of data an organization possesses (and the quality of the data)
- Understanding where data assets are located and monitoring the use of data
- Ensuring high-quality data is accessible, usable, safe, and trusted — quickly identifying data quality issues
- Enforcing data policies, business rules, and initiatives around how a company’s data can be used
- Helping the organization make most of its business data for competitive advantage
- Ensuring stakeholders, data owners, and business users create a data-driven culture
What qualifications should a data steward have?
A data steward is responsible for carrying out data usage and security policies as determined through enterprise data governance initiatives, acting as a liaison between the IT department and the business side of an organization. Data stewardship responsibilities largely revolve around risk management, information governance, and data security.
Data steward roles require a range of both technical and business-oriented skills, including programming and data modeling, as well as proficiency in data analysis, data modeling, data management, and DBMS, as well as Microsoft Excel, technical writing, and presentation skills. Data stewards should be strong communicators and collaborators due to the cross-functional nature of data steward roles.
Benefits of data stewardship
Companies may implement a data stewardship program as part of their overall data lifecycle management effort or to help with data quality improvement projects. A data steward role collaborates with data architects, business intelligence (BI) developers, data scientists, business data owners, data analysts, and others to uphold data security and data quality metrics. Data quality tools, including data profiling software, are key technology components of many data stewardship programs.
The data steward role — and information governance overall — emerged as a critical role as business data increased and data access became more critical.
Organizations increasingly rely on business data and the decision-making insights it provides. That data needs to be accurate and accessible to all roles where and when needed in order to make truly data-driven decisions. Organizations also need healthy, accessible data to fuel modernization initiatives such as machine learning programs that are entirely dependent on healthy data to produce results.
Data stewards, with responsibility for inventorying corporate data, how it can be accessed, and where it's needed, are typically tasked with ensuring its accuracy and availability. But data steward responsibilities can also include helping to identify and communicate ways that this business data can create a competitive advantage in the market. The benefits of data stewardship also include:
- more effective analytics enablement
- clear data processes and policies
- improved data quality and reliability
- less error in data-driven decision making and initiatives
- more widespread use of data for decision making
- better data documentation and tracking
- reduced data-related security risks
What is the difference between data stewardship and data governance?
While data stewardship focuses on coordination and implementation, data governance usually refers to and focuses on high-level policies and procedures. Both are important, but not interchangeable.
Use cases for a data stewardship program
While an organization may have a single data steward, it may also have multiple people assume the role depending on the size of the organization, the maturity of its data program, the industry, and its current data needs. Organizations that have multiple data stewards may assign them to business units, departments, or specific types of data.
A data stewardship program includes the following:
- Data quality programs, including the establishment and use of quality metrics and quality detection and correction procedures;
- Enterprise data efforts and operations, including data lifecycle management, which establishes and enforces how long data is retained;
- Data privacy and risk management in conjunction with the data governance program, the security team, the legal department, and the risk function, including the implementation and monitoring of controls; and
- Enterprise policies and procedures for accessing data — with the goal of ensuring only authorized users have access to the data they need in the format they need it in while preserving the confidentiality and integrity of that data.
The data stewardship program works in conjunction with the data governance program, the body that sets the enterprise's objectives, risk tolerance, security requirements, and strategic needs relating to data.
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