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Part-time data stewards can enrich data governance programs

Data governance programs often rely on the part-time data steward -- an employee from a business unit who also serves as a data expert.

Does a data governance program need full-time data stewards to succeed?

Some data governance programs include full-time data stewards as part of the program office. These staff members often function as liaisons to the rest of the organization, leading data governance projects, acting as subject matter experts on other projects that require a level of data governance expertise and serving as the data governance representatives to the overall IT project management office. However, many organizations call them "data governance specialists," not data stewards.

In most companies, the actual data stewards aren't full-time members of the data governance program office. They're people with regular jobs in a business unit who possess detailed knowledge of the data in that particular subject area. Over time, they become a known source of information about that data and its context, answering questions from their peers and superiors. In data governance programs, these people may be recognized for their knowledge and given the formal title of "business data steward," along with some specific data stewardship responsibilities. They often perform that role on a part-time basis, with support from the data governance specialists in the governance program office.

These business data stewards need training in basic data management functions, especially metadata management and data quality processes. Guidance from an experienced data governance program manager or director is also helpful. In addition, they need to be given sufficient time away from their regular positions to fulfill their duties as data stewards -- for example, to serve on the appropriate data stewardship team, to identify and resolve problems with the data in their subject area, to maintain common data definitions and to represent their domain in enterprise data governance activities.

Many organizations have been successful in their data governance programs with part-time business data stewards under those circumstances. But such an approach requires the support of business managers and leaders who recognize the full value of data governance and the contribution that the data stewards can make to the cause of improved data management.

This was first published in June 2014

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