Practical Points from the DGPO: Who’s Who in Data Governance

DGPOHow should the data governance organization be structured? What are the roles needed? Who should ultimately be responsible for data governance and data quality? What does a data steward do?

If one were to ask for a list of the most frequently asked questions about Data Governance, it would be topped with several organizational, people-related questions. While many with an outside-in view of data governance think that data is the hard part, the truth is once you are knee-deep with your sleeves rolled-up, you realize that the human side of data governance can prove to be more far more challenging.

Don’t take this the wrong way – the data piece is no walk in the park, but figuring out the “who” elements of data governance can madden even the toughest of data governance veterans.

The reason? No two data governance organizations look or operate in the same fashion. It is important that your data governance program is developed based on the needs of your business, no one else’s. Business needs will inform the expected governance functions, which will in turn define the framework and the people you need to execute successfully.

There is no one set organizational chart, template or guide for building a data governance organization. The Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO) will always emphasize that a data governance program is unique to the company in which it is developed and no two are the same. But, while there is no boilerplate to apply, there are several key considerations that can help guide how you build your data governance team.

Define what before who.

Before you decide who should be included in your data governance program, determine what the program will do. The “what” is your purpose for existence, your charter, which should be defined by business drivers. These are strategic initiatives that with effective data governance will make your business better, faster, or stronger. Be specific with your expected outcomes and then determine what roles will be necessary to deliver efficiently and effectively. As the scope of your program grows, so will your data governance team.

Consider your culture.

Data governance introduces the need for organizational, behavioral, and structural changes across the entire business. The tolerance for these changes is determined by corporate culture. Do not expect data governance to change your corporate culture overnight. Work within your current organizational boundaries and implement small, iterative changes at the pace your business can absorb.

Consider roles before titles.

A job title does not effectively delineate the expectations of a position. In fact, a title defines more about the company than the job it represents. For example, the title of lead data steward, implies the company has a team with organized leadership likely focused on data management. But, it does not indicate the necessary skills or the expected function of the role. When building your data governance organization, spend more time focusing on job descriptions and performance measures rather than job titles. This will provide clarity on what needs to be accomplished and who will ultimately be responsible for getting the job done.

Focus on the fundamentals.

While it is necessary to recognize that no two data governance programs will be of identical design, there are core organizational elements that should be included in all data governance programs.

  • Executive leadership to outline strategy and shape culture
  • Governance office or council to define process and policy
  • Business stakeholders to offer input, feedback, and guidance
  • Data stewardship to provide advocacy and support
  • Data management for tactical execution

In some companies, each of these elements will be executed by separate roles, while in other companies some of these functions may be overlap until the program matures or grows. Regardless of how these core governance functions are performed, they are necessary to ensure data governance success.

The Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO) recognizes organization as one of six core data governance competencies. If you want more details on data governance organizations or information about best practices in any of the other competencies (fundamentals, stewardship, process, metrics and communication), check out the DGPO website. And, please join us at the Data Governance Winter Conference where we will be taking a deep dive into data governance roles and responsibilities during the DGPO conference session.

In the meantime, we will keep sharing our practical points and best practices from the field here in We are honored to be a part of this newsletter as it is always full of great information and valuable resources. Please feel free to share the core functions of your data governance organization here too. Remember, we are a special breed of people sharing a CRAZY passion for data governance – we are all in this together!

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Anne Buff

Anne Buff

Anne Buff is a member of the SAS Best Practices group and is the VP of Communications for the DGPO. Anne can be reached at

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