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What does a data steward do?

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What does a data steward do?

“Data is the new currency.” Chances are you've heard this before. Put simply, data-driven organizations outperform their competitors and are 23 times more likely to acquire customers. The question becomes: How can your organization leverage data — consistently, accurately, and safely — to make smarter business decisions each day? This is where data governance comes into play — and data stewards step in to ensure businesses keep up with established data principles, rules, and standards.

Once data governance processes are in place, it's easy to assume they'll run themselves. But even with a robust data quality or master data management (MDM) platform, you'll need a person (or people) to enforce the principles and processes established by your data governance framework. They will also monitor your data processes, suggest new rules, build systems and mitigate data issues. And they will ensure the quality of your data, master data, and metadata throughout the entire data lifecycle.

In this article, we’ll cover the definition of data stewardship, why it matters, and what are the roles and responsibilities of a data steward within your organization. Let's start by defining data stewardship.

What is data stewardship?

Data stewardship is the collection of practices, processes, and tools that ensure an organization’s data assets are accessible, usable, safe, and trusted. It includes managing and overseeing every aspect of the data lifecycle from creation, collection, preparation, and usage to data storing and deletion. Stewardship ensures that the data has a clear owner or owners responsible for keeping it in good working order. This usually involves establishing a set of principles, procedures, and best practices around how the data is stored and used to promote data quality and integrity.

Data stewardship encompasses:

  • Ensuring data accessibility, usability, safety, and reliability
  • Maintaining the transparency and accuracy of data
  • Knowing and documenting what types of data an organization possesses
  • Enforcing data policies, business rules, and regulations for using data
  • Ensuring stakeholders, data owners, and business users create a data-driven culture

Why is data stewardship so important?

According to Gartner’s senior analyst, Ted Friedman, "As organizations accelerate their digital business efforts, poor data quality is a major contributor to a crisis in information trust and business value, negatively impacting financial performance." It has become easier than ever for businesses to gather data, but this comes with just as much responsibility as opportunities. In fact, 40% of companies will fail to achieve their business objectives and even lose about 20% of revenue due to poor data quality. These setbacks would likely not occur with an effective data stewardship model in place.

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It's time to leverage PIM as the foundation for data quality in an end-to-end product information process.

What does a data steward do?

A data steward is accountable for ensuring that data policies and standards turn into practice within the steward’s domain. Poor data quality is commonly caused by a lack of data governance, validation, and enrichment. Therefore, one of the most important tasks of this role is to take ownership of the data and define the goals and principles for data governance. This leadership position oversees the company’s data quality standards, including the data rules associated with the data sets. This person is also responsible for maintaining data control in master data management initiatives on a day-to-day basis.

Additionally, data stewards define policies and procedures for access to data, including the criteria for authorization based on role and/or the individual. They work closely with data custodians, data architects, DQ analysts, and operations team members to establish controls, evaluate any vulnerabilities, and support the user community. This role also entails reporting issues associated with the data lifecycle — creation, modification, sharing, reuse, retention, and backup of data. If issues arise regarding compliance with defined policies, it’s the steward’s responsibility to resolve them.

What competencies does a data steward require?

Due to the cross-functional nature of data steward roles, this position requires a range of both technical and business-oriented skills:

  • Technical skills: Proficiency in data analysis, data modeling, data management, and DBMS, as well as Microsoft Excel, technical writing, and programming.
  • Departmental knowledge: In-depth knowledge of the operational area they are responsible for, including understanding rules, processes, and requirements.
  • Interpersonal skills: The ability to interpret and communicate policy or business rules to end users.
  • Collaboration skills: Working with other data custodians and stakeholders across the organization to ensure data flows smoothly.

What are the responsibilities of a data steward?

Successfully establishing a well-planned data governance framework depends on how well data policies are enforced and adopted throughout the organization. The leading role of a data steward is to ensure that the rules and procedures set by the data governance program will be carried out to the highest standard possible, with all employees on board. The exact job description, duties, and responsibilities of a data steward vary from position to position. Still, most data stewards carry out several similar tasks, including:

  • Taking an active part in the data governance framework to provide feedback on existing practices and recommend improvements
  • Managing metadata and processes to ensure proper use of data being read, created, collected, reported, updated, or deleted
  • Ensuring data quality, data definition, and privacy standards are met
  • Educating various teams about data management across the organization and sharing best practices
  • Providing insight into how and where teams can use data to help in day-to-day decision-making
  • Defining the data and identifying assets within their own data domains
  • Creating processes and procedures along with access controls to monitor adherence
  • Evaluating and identifying issues and coordinating and implementing corrections regularly

The bottom line

Data-driven organizations are outperforming their competitors in terms of acquiring new customers, retaining the company’s customer base, and achieving above-average profitability. Today, 90% of business professionals say that data and analytics are key to their organization’s digital transformation initiatives. Yet many companies still struggle under the weight of traditional business models and analog processes that undervalue the power of data. Data that isn't looked after can degrade exponentially and become useless to your company.

That’s why you should select a data steward to help your organization successfully implement data governance initiatives. A data steward will ensure the safety, reliability, and availability of your data assets and define clear goals for data-quality improvement. Therefore, choose wisely because the role of a data steward is crucial in moving your organization towards a culture that sees data as a competitive asset and not a necessary evil.

Take control of your increasingly complex product data!

Leverage PIM as the foundation for data quality in an end-to-end product information process.