Data Stewards versus Subject Matter Experts and Data Managers

MAY 28, 2014 5:00am ET

Much discussion exists about the role of a data steward and what it entails, and in my experience it is quite unclear in many enterprises. A large part of this lack of clarity seems to arise from confusion with two other roles - subject matter experts and data managers. We need to understand how these three roles fit together. Either we should justify them as separate roles or recognize that they boil down to the same thing. The fact that many enterprises have only a fuzzy grasp of what these three roles involve is a major risk for the successful operationalization of data governance. This is because individuals will be assumed to have accountabilities that they have not been formally assigned, and which they are not equipped to carry out. To the extent that these accountabilities are assigned by a data governance program, it is data governance that will be blamed for lack of results.

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Comments (7)
Perhaps the CIO is in a position to think about the business implications and big picture questions related to data use. I've always viewed data stewardship as a practice, not a position. Every member of an enterprise bears some responsibility for data stewardship. Even a data manager could be a SME on topics related to data classification, retention, etc., so these two titles are not necessarily at odds with one another Your thoughts?

Shannon Harmon

Posted by Shannon H | Wednesday, May 28 2014 at 11:15AM ET
First of, I think differentiating these roles are great. And I agree with much of the spirit.

That said, realizing key part of Data Management is semantics, my view of Data Managers is different than the above. Yes, everyone has a defined charter, though I also believe if you are a data manager in charge of master and reference data, part of your role is understanding and prioritizing against the overall organizational needs and ensuring ongoing care and feeding of your own solution environment. I see this as an oversight and program management role, that includes stewardship or technology initiatives under its domain.

On the other hand, while I agree Data Governance takes a big picture role also, historically it has been definition and oversight vs. action oriented.

Last, I like the idea of data steward networks. I have been sharing the idea of Social Data Stewardship recently, where organizations really need to find effective ways of tapping tribal knowledge and funneling it to data management tools or processes, so dedicated stewards can be even more effective.

Cheers Malcolm. Always good to read and ponder your thoughts. Mehmet

Posted by Mehmet O | Wednesday, May 28 2014 at 11:17AM ET
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