The Data Stewardship Approach to Data Governance: Chapter 8

Published in February 2008

Editor’s note: Following are links to all of the articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9 and Part 10

This is the eighth chapter in a series of articles by Robert S. Seiner. The past few chapters have discussed the KIK Data Governance Framework© that is demonstrated in the diagram below. In the last issue, I began to focus on the middle section of the pyramid and described the responsibilities of the Data Domain Steward. The discussion continues with more of the middle section – the section that I label as the tactical (or cross functional) layer. The tactical layer typically consists of two pivotal roles. I label these roles as the Data Domain Stewards and the Data Steward Coordinators. This article focuses on the Data Steward Coordinator. The articles in the coming issues will address each level of the pyramid as well as the side-bars and the tower sticking out of the top. Please address all comments and questions about past and future portions of the framework to the author through email.

As stated in the previous article, I often refer to the tactical layer as being the “biggest hurdle” for organizations to get over while in the throes of implementing Data Governance programs. Many organizations have become accustomed to operating in silos even though they acknowledge that this is at the root of their data problems. The switch to a tactical and cross Business Unit/Functional Area (often called the “enterprise”) perspective often brings with it pain, political battles, differences of opinion and loads of work. As I stated earlier, it’s no wonder people don’t want to stand in front of that train.

An early step to introducing or addressing the “enterprise” perspective is to identify and formalize the role of the Data Domain Stewards. The second step is to identify and formalize the role of the Data Steward Coordinator, the “other” pivotal role of the tactical layer.

The number of data stewards in each Business Unit/Functional Area of your organization can be plentiful if you follow the “de facto” approach that I use of identifying stewards through their natural relationships to the data. In most cases, organizations find that they have multiple (what I call) Operational Data Stewards per Unit/Area and multiple stewards for the same data or data in the same subject area. The next chapter of this series will address the daily hands-on data stewards as the Operational Data Stewards.

In order to manage or monitor the activities of the numerous Operational Data Stewards in each Unit/Area, best practices in Data Governance dictates that someone has the responsibility of coordinating the stewards’ activities. In other words, most often the Operational Data Stewards will not (at least initially) govern themselves. The Data Steward Coordinator is a Business Unit/Functional Area responsibility for, exactly as the name suggests, coordinating the activities of the Data Stewards in their unit or area. This responsibility focuses on making certain that the stewards who are defining, producing and using data are involved when they need to be in promoting healthy data activities and addressing data quality issues.

Data Steward Coordinators Primary Responsibilities Include:

  1. Identifying Data Stewards in their Business Unit/Functional Area,
  2. Coordinating the Data Steward Involvement in Pro-Active and Reactive Data Governance Activities,
  3. Communicating Changes to Data Policy, Regulations and Rules to the Affected Data Stewards in their Unit/Area.

The Data Steward Coordinator – Communications as a Pivotal Role

A Data Steward Coordinator is often in the middle of data governance communications and data governance activities. One of the most important aspects of their responsibility goes beyond traditional coordination or management (of personnel) activities. There are several critical points where communications tend to breakdown across organizations putting the organization at unnecessary risk. The formalization of the Data Domain Steward (discussed in the last issue) involved identifying a person or persons that has responsibility for documenting, “knowing”, and communicating the rules around the data that is a part of their domain. The Data Domain Stewards have the responsibility of recording and sharing information about, and changes to, the data in their domain. This information may include:

  • Policy – Description of and Change to formal and approved manners to define, produce and use data.
  • Regulation – Description of and Change to how an external entity dictates how data can be defined, produced and used
  • Rules – Internal business specifications for how data can be defined, produced and used

The Data Domain Steward has the responsibility for documenting and communicating these types of changes to the Coordinator. The Data Steward Coordinator then has the responsibility of communicating the types of changes mentioned above to the Data Stewards in their unit/area that are affected by the change. This closes the loop of the communications process. The Coordinator has the responsibility for communicating the impacted people in their area.

Associating Data Steward Coordinators to Business Units/Functional Areas

Data Steward Coordinators are typically effective when their responsibilities are associated with the Data Stewards of their specific Business Units and Functional Areas. Therefore the first step to identify Coordinators involves identifying the Units/Areas that will they will represent. The responsibility of describing the Units/Areas for Data Governance purposes typically falls into the hands of the team of individuals responsible for establishing the Data Governance Program. The Units/Areas are often pulled from an organizational chart or they can be determined by documenting the Companies, Divisions, Departments, Teams, and so on, that make up your organization. If the Unit/Areas are defined at a company level, it is often left to the company to determine how granular they want to get with defining their Units/Areas. It is not uncommon for Units/Areas to focus on different levels, for example – some at Units/Areas at a departmental level and some at division level. Once the definition of Units/Areas have been completed, the most senior level manager of that lowest granularity group often identifies or assigns a logical person (sometimes, but not always by position) to help coordinate the activities of the stewards in their group and act as the point person for data-oriented communications.

Data Steward Coordinator Responsibilities

The Data Steward Coordinator may be responsible for one, several or all of the following responsibilities:

  • Identifying the operational stewards of data per domain for their unit/area. This typically requires research and inventory time for the Data Steward Coordinator.
  • 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 & 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.
  • 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 tasks.
  • Researching exactly how and what data is being defined, produced and used in their unit/area and by whom.

The Data Steward Coordinator typically has no decision making authority but plays a pivotal role in data governance and data stewardship success.

Managing Data Steward Metadata

In an earlier article of this series, I mentioned the importance of recording information about the Operational Data Stewards in each Business Unit/Functional Area as a vital resource for managing data across the organization. This information about the data – the people associated with the data – can be considered metadata. The Data Steward Repository and the Common Data Matrix were two of the tools mentioned for managing Steward Metadata in Chapter 3: The Tools of Data Governance.

Once the repository is populated and after the tool has been made available to people in your organization, it often becomes the responsibility of the Data Steward Coordinators to keep the repository up to date. This typically requires that a report is issued to the Data Steward Coordinators of the Operational Data Stewards in their area and the Business Units/Functional Areas to which those stewards are associated. The reports are typically eye-balled by the Coordinators, marked up with changes, and delivered back to the team responsible for keeping the repository up to date. It is the responsibility of this same team to recognize when changes have been made to the Data Domain Stewards and the Data Steward Coordinators and to make these changes directly in the repository.

The Data Steward Coordinator plays a pivotal role in a successful data governance program. Identifying the operational Data Stewards and enabling the Data Domain Stewards to successfully manage data and communicate across the enterprise is an early step addressed in the development of a Data Governance Program.

The next article in the series will detail the responsibilities of the lower level of the KIK Data Governance Platform, the operational role or that of the Operational Data Steward. Please feel free to contact me via email to discuss this article in greater detail or to find out how to implement a Non-Invasive Data Governance program at your organization.

Copyright © 2008 – Robert S. Seiner
The Data Administration Newsletter, LLC
KIK Consulting & Educational Services, LLC

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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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