Complete Set of Data Governance Roles & Responsibilities

FEA02x - image - EDOver the years, I have been asked several times to consolidate all the roles and responsibilities necessary to deliver a successful Data Governance program into a single article. In this article, I am providing bullet-ed information from earlier articles, slide presentations, and client work (with names changed to protect the innocent), incorporating the past several years of experience into the latest incarnation of the Non-Invasive Data Governance Operating Model of Roles and Responsibilities (see Pyramid diagram below).

This feature article is a refreshed view of an older article focused on the roles and responsibilities associated with an Operating Model for a Data Governance program.


Click on the diagram to see a larger version.

How to Read the Data Governance Operating Model

Over the years, the Non-Invasive Data Governance Operating Model of Roles and Responsibilities (pyramid diagram above) has not changed a lot. The model is still made up of the same levels and sidebars. the names and descriptions of the roles and responsibilities continue to be adjusted depending on organizational culture and the need for governance of data.

The space inside each level of the pyramid represents the rough percentage of instances that organizations expect decisions to be made about the data; decisions should be made at the operational level if the decisions only affect that level of the organization. This means that the majority of the decisions will eventually be made within the Business Units that make up the operation level of the pyramid. Therefore, the amount of space within the operational level of the pyramid is greater than the tactical or strategic levels of the pyramid.

When decisions cross over Business Units, these decisions are made at the tactical or strategic levels of the pyramid, or part of an organization, where individuals and departments have the authority to make decisions for the enterprise regarding a certain subject area or domain of data. An example of a domain could be claims, provider, group, employee and finance, or sub-sets of these domains or subject areas.

Many organizations find the identification of the cross-functional roles to be the most difficult hurdle when developing the roles of their data governance program. At the cross-Business Unit level, the silos of data are broken down and the data is shared and extracted across Business Units. Finding the appropriate people to fill the roles associated with decision making for a specific subject matter of data is not easy. Sometimes this role becomes defined through policy. At other times, this role is fulfilled at the highest level of the organization. Then the role is taken over by someone who volunteers to play the role of facilitator across Business Units and who has no decision-making authority.

When this “volunteer” scenario becomes the case, data issues tend to always get escalated to the strategic level. Note the arrows along the right side of the pyramid. One arrow represents an escalation path and the other represents the need for effective communications at all levels and roles of the operating model. The escalation path moves from the operational to the tactical and then to the strategic roles of the data-governance program.

The escalation path does not extend into the executive level because data issues are not typically escalated to the senior-most management of an organization. For this reason, the executive level has no space within the pyramid. Often organizations consider that only five to ten percent of all decisions need to be raised to the strategic level. Higher percentages often reflect difficulties of facilitating toward acceptable solutions at the tactical level. Thus, the space within the strategic level of the pyramid should represent five to ten percent of decisions made at the strategic level.

The arrows to the right of the triangle represent:

  • Bi-directional data governance communications across all four levels of the Program.
  • A data governance issue escalation path from operational to strategic roles.

The bullets below define the make-up of each data governance role and provide the responsibilities associated with each role during the planning and on-going program deployment.

The Support Levels

The responsibilities of the Data Governance Office or DG Program Team are:

  • Overseeing enterprise data governance program development.
  • Architecting the solution and framework.
  • Administering the program, including facilitating the data governance council meetings.
  • Providing the agenda for the data governance council meetings to be approved by council owner pre-meeting.
  • Facilitating data governance organization, tactical and operational stewards, and the data governance council involvement.
  • Developing and delivering data governance program educational, awareness, and mentoring materials.
  • Providing quality assurance – oversight, monitor, report results to governance council.
  • Establishing, maintaining, and periodically reviewing and recommending changes to data governance policies, standards, guidelines, and procedures.
  • Assisting in defining data quality metrics for periodic release.
  • Supporting data quality issue analysis and remediation for “strategic” data.
  • Conducting audits to ensure that policies, procedures and metrics are in place for maintaining/improving the program.

The responsibilities of Information Technology (Data SMEs and System SMEsas an example of Data Governance Partners are:

  • Focusing on consistent protection/classification of data by data classification (confidential, public, internal use, …).
  • Technical handling of data to meet data classification requirements.
  • Securing IT infrastructure on behalf of the business units that own or have responsibility for data.
  • Assuring that sensitive data, regardless of format, is protected at all times by only using approved equipment, networks, and other controls.
  • Championing the integration of data governance within the standard project methodology.
  • Ensuring that standard project methodology is followed and that policies, procedures and metrics are in place for maintaining/improving data quality and the creation, capture, and maintenance of metadata.
  • Ensuring that all “strategic” data is modeled, named, and defined consistently.
  • Ensuring that projects source and utilize data as much as is feasible from the designated system of record.
  • Providing technical support for ensuring data quality.
  • Providing technical support for data governance and data cleansing efforts where required.
  • Ensuring that metadata critical to data governance is included in the metadata resource and is accessible.

The Operational Level

The responsibilities of the Operational Data Stewards are:

  • Defining the data that will be used by the organization, how that data will be used, and how that data will be managed – data definers.
  • Producing, creating, updating, deleting, retiring, archiving the data that will be managed – data producers.
  • Using data to perform their job and processes; maintaining the integrity of data usage – data users.
  • Creating, reviewing, approving data definitions.
  • Integrity and quality of data definition.
  • Producing, creating, updating, deleting, retiring, and archiving the data that will be managed.
  • Integrity and quality of the data created or updated in their department or process.
  • Identifying and classifying data access levels.
  • Identifying and documenting regulatory and legal/risk issues, including data retention requirements.
  • Supporting and sharing knowledge with other stewards.
  • Communicating new and changed business requirements to individuals who may be impacted.
  • Communicating concerns, issues and problems with data to the individuals that can influence change.

The Tactical Levels

The responsibilities of the Data Domain Stewards (one per data domain or subject area of data) are:

  • Focusing on the quality of data in a domain (subject area in most cases) for the “enterprise.”
  • Identified by position (or person) as part of a single business unit or functional area.
  • When acting in role of data domain steward, affiliation to business unit becomes secondary.
  • Involved/facilitator in cross business unit resolution of data definition, production, and usage issues.
  • May or not be the authority (decision maker). Depends on position in the organization.
  • Escalating well-documented issues to the strategic level with or without recommendation.
  • Documenting data classification rules, compliance rules, and business rules for data in their domain (may delegate this).
  • Making certain the rules are communicated to all stakeholders of data in that domain (may delegate).
  • Participating in tactical groups (with other domain stewards, steward coordinators, and operational stewards) for finite periods of time to address specific issues and projects related to their domain and business unit.

The responsibilities of the Data Steward Coordinators (one per unit, division, or functional area) are:

  • Acting as the point communications person for distributing rules and regulations per domain of data to the operational stewards in their business unit (and making certain that the operational data stewards understand the rules and risks).
  • Acting as the point communications person for their business unit to document and communicate issues pertaining to specific domains of data to the proper data domain steward.
  • Acting as the point person in the common data matrix (or data steward repository) regular change control process.
  • Identifying the operational stewards of data per domain for their business unit. This typically requires research and inventory time for the data steward coordinator.
  • Working alongside the data domain stewards and operational data stewards on specific tactical data steward teams that are set up for the duration of issue resolution or project-focused task.
  • The data steward coordinator typically has no decision-making authority, but plays a pivotal role in data governance and data stewardship success.
  • In the common data matrix, they should fill in the operational data stewards per domain for the domains in which their business unit are stakeholders. This may require the coordinator to research exactly how and what data is being defined, produced, and used in their business unit.

The Strategic Level

The responsibilities of the Data Governance Council are:

  • Becoming educated in what data governance means, how it can and will work for the organization and what it means to embrace data governance and activate your enterprise data stewards.
  • Approving things that need to be approved – i.e., data policy, data role framework, methods, priorities, tools, etc.
  • Pushing data governance into their areas by actively promoting improved data governance practices.
  • Making decisions at a strategic level in a timely manner given the appropriate knowledge to make that decision.
  • Meeting regularly (or send alternate), reading minutes to stay informed of data governance program activities.
  • Identifying and approving of pivotal data governance roles including cross-enterprise domain stewards and coordinators.
  • Advising the data governance council owner in applying data governance to risk management, compliance, business unit-specific governance interests.

The Executive Level

The responsibilities of the Senior Leadership Team (or other named Steering Committee) are:

  • Sponsoring, approving, championing the enterprise strategic plan and policy.
  • Communicating with lines of business the expectations and requirements for data governance.
  • Identifying and prioritizing data quality initiatives.


This article contains sets of bullet-ed roles and responsibilities associated with each level of a Non-Invasive Data Governance Operating Model. This list of roles and responsibilities should be used as a starter list that should be adjusted to how you expect Data Governance to operate for your organization.

Non-Invasive Data Governance™ is a trademark of Robert S. Seiner and KIK Consulting & Educational Services.

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Robert S. Seiner

Robert S. Seiner

Robert (Bob) S. Seiner is the President and Principal of KIK Consulting & Educational Services and the Publisher Emeritus of The Data Administration Newsletter. Seiner is a thought-leader in the fields of data governance and metadata management. KIK (which stands for “knowledge is king”) offers consulting, mentoring and educational services focused on Non-Invasive Data Governance, data stewardship, data management and metadata management solutions. Seiner is the author of the industry’s top selling book on data governance – Non-Invasive Data Governance: The Path of Least Resistance and Greatest Success (Technics Publications 2014) and the followup book - Non-Invasive Data Governance Strikes Again: Gaining Experience and Perspective (Technics 2023), and has hosted the popular monthly webinar series on data governance called Real-World Data Governance (w Dataversity) since 2012. Seiner holds the position of Adjunct Faculty and Instructor for the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College Chief Data Officer Executive Education program.

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