This article is adapted from the book “Universal Meta Data Models” by David Marco & Michael Jennings, John Wiley & Sons
Data is one of the most important assets in a corporation. In order for data to have value is must be delivered quickly, properly formatted, be concise, accurate and most importantly, understood.
The meta data repository has become the key enabling technology that has allowed corporations to manage their meta data (knowledge about their data). Keep in mind that the technology (a meta data
repository) is just one part of the knowledge management equation. The other part is business ownership and active participation. These factors are dependent on the people responsible for the data
to define and manage that information (meta data). As a result, the role of the data steward has grown considerably over the years.
In this series of articles I will present the Data Stewardship Framework. Having had the opportunity to form several data stewardship organizations I can attest that no two data stewardship groups
are exactly the same. As a result this article is meant to be a guideline to how these groups are formed. This framework is designed to provide corporations and government entities with the
strategies and guidelines necessary to implement a highly successful data stewardship organization.
Understanding Data Stewardship
The data steward acts as the conduit between information technology (IT) and the business portion of a company. These people align the business needs with the IT systems supporting them (both
decision support and operational). The data steward has the challenge of guaranteeing that one of the corporation’s most critical assets–its data–is used to its fullest capacity. As this article
continues I will further discuss the specific data stewardship activities.
Some people may say that their company does not have any data stewards but this is not true. Every company has data stewards. There is always someone within our companies whom we go to when there
is a question on what the data means. This person is the data steward, even if they don’t have the title.
Based on your company’s size, organization and industry will dictate how much effort you will need to place in data stewardship. In my experience the industries that tend to have greater data
stewardship needs include pharmaceutical, certain government organizations (e.g. military, energy, etc.), insurance, banking, security brokers/investment advice and any firm that has great
Types of Data Stewards
Throughout this article I will use the term “data steward” to refer to generically refer to the four types of data stewardship committee roles:
- Executive Sponsor
- Chief Steward
- Business Steward
- Data Steward
While it is important to identify who is going to fulfill these four roles, keep in mind that, with few exceptions these roles are not full-time roles.
Any initiative that cuts across a company’s lines-of-business must have executive management support onboard. Executive management involvement is imperative in breaking down the barriers and the
“ivory towers” that exist in all of our companies. Do not underestimate the obstacle that these political challenges present. These political issues are the greatest challenge that any data
stewardship committee faces.
Good executive sponsors do not need to attend every data stewardship meeting, nor do they need to participate in tasks like defining data definitions. Instead, the executive sponsor needs to
provide the appropriate level of support for their business or technical stewards.
It has been my experience that it can be more difficult finding a business executive sponsor than it is to find a technical executive steward. In looking for an executive sponsor I look for five
- Someone Willing to be an Executive Sponsor
- Executive Ranking
- High Creditability
- Knowledgeable on the Problems Within the Company
- Willing to Challenge the Company’s Status Quo
I had a client that was a large financial institution. They were looking to implement an enterprise-level data stewardship committee. We had a technical executive sponsor; however, they had not
identified a business executive sponsor. As part of our engagement with this client we were conducting a readiness assessment of their meta data repository initiative. During this assessment I
interviewed a member of the company’s executive management team. This person has worked at this company for over 20 years and was a very bright individual. He had a strong belief in his company’s
need for data stewardship and he clearly understood how the lack of data stewardship has cost his company significant dollars. After this meeting I went back to my client counterpart and stated
that I found our business executive sponsor.
The Chief Steward is responsible for the day-to-day organization and management of the data stewardship committee. Like any other organization the data stewardship committee needs a leader (project
manager) that is the chief steward. Typically the chief steward will be a senior level, as oppose to executive level, individual with an organization.
The chief steward must be a highly creditable person within your organization. In addition, they need to have a sound knowledge of both the technical and the business sides of the corporation. This
is knowledge is vital as some stewards are from the business and some are from the technical side. The chief steward needs to understand the politics within their organizations and have the insight
on how to navigate around those challenges. Most importantly the chief steward must have very good leadership and communication skills to help guide the data stewardship committee. This is most
evident when this person need attain consensus across disparate groups.
The Business Steward is responsible for defining the procedures, policies, data meanings and requirements of the enterprise. Keep in mind that the business stewards can be organized from a
departmental level (e.g. consumer lending, military branch, pharmacology, etc.) or by subject matter (e.g. Logistics, Shipping, etc.).
Business stewards need to have a strong knowledge of the business requirements and policies of the corporation. These stewards will need to be able to make sound decisions and to work with key
members of their business in order to gain consensus on their organization’s business policies and requirements.
The Technical Steward is a member of the organization’s IT department. These people are technical resources that will focus on the technical meta data and data that needs to be captured by the
data stewardship committee.
In the next installment I will continue to walkthrough the data stewardship framework.
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