Stewards of Data

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Stewards of Data

What is a Data Steward? What does a Data Steward do? The definition of “Data Steward” will vary from organization to organization. Many times, data stewards will be segmented into a "Technical Data Steward or a "Business Data Steward." Both roles are equally important for the growth and stability of a Data Governance Program.

Both the business data steward and a technical data steward will foster collaboration between business units and facilitate communication for optimal output for data governance activities. Business data stewards will often oversee the management and governance of data within specific business units or functional areas of an organization. A business steward may represent the marketing or finance department within a company and be responsible for the data in conjunction with that specific line of business. In many cases, they will work closely with the data governance team and may even be referred to as a “Data Owner or Data Custodian.” Business Data Stewards will assist in defining business rules, policies, and standards, ensuring data quality, and providing guidance to end-users on how to properly use and manage data. 


Common Data Steward Titles

Technical data stewards encompass the technical skills needed to assist with data integration, management, quality, lineage, security, and integrity. Most have an in-depth knowledge of company-wide technical infrastructure and how data is moving across the business. Their main function is to ensure that critical data and data elements are in proper form prior to consumption for the business teams. 

For example, a technical data steward may conduct the following activities for data integration:

  • Design the ETL process by defining the data sources, the data transformations, and the target data structures. This involves working with the data analysts
  • Responsible for optimizing the ETL process to improve its performance and reliability. This involves tuning the ETL code
  • Writing SQL queries, developing custom scripts

Both roles will vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization, as well as the specific needs of the data governance program. Many organizations will only have part-time data stewards as this is not their dedicated job function. Other organizations’ data stewards have dedicated responsibilities for governing data sets and work closely with other additional lines of business across the enterprise. In a recent survey conducted with 151 data governance professionals, 38.4% of their organizations’ data stewards were part-time as opposed to 61.6% being full-time dedicated. 

Stewards are a key foundation for a successful data governance program as they are needed to align all activities for data insights and compliance. They are part of the larger people-centric data governance model where collaboration is a must-have.