The Data Steward as Platoon leader of your data

In the world of data management a lot of different terms and roles are displayed. But what does each role really means? The complexity is for most people too hard to understand and explain to others. In this publication I will try to create so clarity around data governance and in particular the data steward. What is a data steward and why is everybody a data steward?

In the graphic beneath you will the specific layers of data management from strategic which are the first three aspects towards tactic such as the data steward to operational considering the data entry points. The two layers we will focus on are data governance and data stewardship

Data Governance

The technical and common used term of data governance is as usually provided by the research firm of Gartner. They define Data Governance as follows:

“Data Governance is the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles and policies, standards and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information. Gartner.

In just plain English I would say that you could data governance translate to a basic set of rules for managing data in an organization. The data flows through different people’s hands and departments before it lands in the main system. These rules and the people involved with their approvals for their responsibilities can we consider as the data governance in an organization. Remember this is just “plain” English. The complexity comes with the complexity of the organization it is applied in.

Data Steward

The role of the data steward is to live by the rules set up in the data governance library. They have to guard and preserve these rules. It is a more tactic oversight and mostly just focused on one part of a business or business process. The data stewards have also the responsibility to collaborate with the IT department to make the data flow in the organization efficient. Let give some examples of the other responsibilities of data stewards.

Responsibilities of a Data Steward
  • Guard and preserve the business rules for data management such as described in the rules of data governance. Connecting the two dots of (master) data management and data entry.
  • Keep the quality of the data in their area of expertise or their business process at a high level. Always considering that garbage in is also garbage out affecting decision making in the organization.
  • Trouble shooting around data problems. Usually the trouble shooting has to do with the definitions of data. Is a data definition interpreted the right way and also suggested the right way by data entry. What is the result of adding new values to the system
  • Being responsible for every part of the data that lands in the main system. This task is making the job of a data steward heavy and it needs a high level of perfectionism
The platoon leader

These 4 items are just an example of the responsibilities of a data steward. I am sure they will add many more to the list. However one the greatest risks of being an data steward is the fact that hierarchy data stewards not acknowledge as the people who have power. But in fact they hold the power over the data flow in organizations. They run the organization of data. One of the most beautiful comparisons you can make is the comparison with the platoon leader. In the chain of command they hold no power, but in the field they are the ones who call the shots.