February 16, 2012, MIAMI – OppenheimerFunds has turned its customer service reps at its call centers into “deputy” data stewards.

Their job: To make sure the email addresses they obtain and other data about customers they interact with are accurate.

The dispersion of the responsibility for maintaining records is key to ensuring not just accuracy but compliance with internal and regulatory standards. But the key to making it all work is not just to clean up the data you take in, but to make sure you know “who owns” every piece of data you collect, said G. Mark Curry, vice president of OppenheimerFunds at NICSA’s 30th Annual Conference and Expo.

Fund companies need to figure out not just how to expose data for review and make it editable, but how to resolve inconsistencies. And that means, Curry said, getting many disparate parts of an organization to get engaged.

Enter the data steward.

At Oppenheimer, anyone from a senior vice president or distribution or sales to an operations manager to a customer service representative can be assigned the responsibility of maintaining accuracy and quality of data.

This can run from the information in customer records to details on funds as simple as its name or symbol to its 10-year history of performance. A single truth has to emerge.

The process often is overseen by a chief information officer. But, at Oppenheimer, there are various ways parts of the organization handle their data stewardship responsibilities.

Some hold weekly meetings. Some set up stewardships committees. In other cases, a single individual has to reconcile discrepancies.

In all cases, ownership of each piece of data is identified and tracked.

As per an archived Information Management feature from renowned consultant and author William Laurent:

  • The most effective stewards will be familiar with core business values and practices but should also be able to understand data models, tech-speak and data storage topics from a high and low level.
  • Lead stewards should be visible senior-level people who are respected and well liked in the organization, with the ability to motivate and envision change from a high level.
  • They should be empowered by senior management and steering committees to directly address issues and manage standards-based implementations from both a business and technology-centric view, brandishing their "data police badge" when staff members resist data standards and the added responsibility or loss of control that come with such regulations.
  • Stewards must have specific and measurable goals for data quality, making sure that public data helps enforce and promulgate vital business rules and processes.
  • A viable formal stewardship policy will be rooted in ongoing standards that identify goals, priorities and quality metrics within all systems infrastructure elements (from data warehouses to OLTP applications) and business functions that touch or affect data.
  • The steward will tie business strategy to data strategy, applying generally accepted qualitative metrics and heuristics (risk management, cost benefit analysis, change management, etc.) to the measuring and enforcement of data quality.

This story originally appeared at Securities Technology Monitor.

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