Blog post

13 minutes a week – what your data steward should be doing

By Andrew White | July 05, 2012 | 2 Comments

Master Data ManagementMaster Data LifecycleMaster DataInformation GovernanceGovernanceData QualityData GovernanceMaster Content Management

I came up with this idea a few weeks ago.  As usual, I was doing call after call on one of those busy days when it became clear to me that I was saying the same thing over and over again.  Not exactly the same thing of course, but I spotted a pattern.  I came up with a phrase to encapsulate the idea: “13 minutes a week – that is how much work your data stewards should be doing”.

There are so many organizations worrying about “information governance”.  Some focus on the “death of data” in that they try to build processes and system to manage data that is no longer part of day to day business/operations, but it needs to be mined and accessed (potentially) much later.  The sexier part of information governance is focused on what I might call the “birth of data” and “living data”.  That is, the origination and authorship of data in our line of business systems and how it is used very day across those systems.  That is the focus of Master Data Management (MDM) and its newer cousin, Master Content Management (applying IG to CM).

During all the MDM hype a significant number of inquiries have come in that focus on the work of the data steward.  And I mean more precisely the stewards’ role in the business, not inside the IT organization.  This means the marketing person, the supply chain person, the legal secretary, the warehouse manager, who has to solve a problem related to data that impacts their business outcome or performance.  That is the essence of information (or data) stewardship.  It is NOT about “data entry”.  It is about “chief information problem solver”.

If we collectively (that means you and me) design data stewardship processes that take 8 hours a week, we will be laughed off the stage.  No business person would sign up for that; worse, we should not think that is even a reasonable request.  It might be that we have a lot of “data quality work” to get our data in a ship shape fashion, but that work is not “data stewardship” work data to day.  That would be upfront preparation for the implementation.

So I came up with this idea: We should design information stewardship processes, and sell that work, as if it resulted in “13 minutes a week of work”.  No one can predict when that work needs to be done; it is meant to be on an exception basis.  That business users would do this work as ordinarily as they do their work today – this IS part of what they do (it is not different, or additional).  In fact, before this whole effort, too many users did exactly this, and trod on each other’s toes!

So that’s the message for the week: Information stewardship should be perceived as “13 minutes of work a week”.  For your organization it might 10 minutes; it could be 24 minutes.  But please, let’s keep this stuff in focus.  Anything outside these small numbers means we are not thinking straight about what it is we are trying to do with information governance.

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  • Rob Karel says:

    Hi Andrew – great post and I think your 13 minutes a week vision is a great one to evangelize. My one question for you is the role of the data steward in defining and implementing data management policies, rules, standards, etc vs. the role of data steward in “keep the lights on” data maintenance mode.

    I completely agree that if your organization has done its upfront data governance work well, the “keep the lights on” escalations and mitigations requires by your business subject matter expert (SME) data stewards should be minimal – your 13 minutes per week.

    But significant effort is required by organizations to initially build their business glossaries, data quality and privacy rules and measures, identify and implement business process updates, and the system-specific requirements to encapsulate all of the necessary business and process-context into data management architectures and applications. This effort will require a dedicated contribution from these functional and line of business SMEs.

    So I’m thinking anywhere from 10%-25% of a data stewards bandwidth would need to be budgeted during this “requirements” phase of the effort, with some additional support for quality assurance prior to implementation of the processes and systems – and only then can they go into “13 minute mode”.
    Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks!

  • Andrew White says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for posting a response. I am glad you liked the “13 minutes a week” idea.

    Yes, I totally agree with your comment. There is a significant amount of work to do as part of the implementation, including the work you identified. And I would proffer that even this large amount of work is generally not recognized by many organizations embarking on MDM and information governance. You estimate 10-25% of the data stewards bandwidth for this work. I like that range as a working assumption. These are, of course, business people since it is they who have all the necessary knowledge (that goes into the business rules, glossary etc). So for some companies, with particularly dire data, this upfront work might break through the 25% but it’s a good plan for now.

    So there are two periods here – the upfront implementation and the keep-the-lights-on (or operational) mode. The 13-minutes a week idea focuses on the operational, day to day mode of “data stewardship”. I think more organizations have thought (to some degree, at least) about the implementation period; and I find that all too many don’t even know how to talk about the ‘day in the life of the information steward’, which is where the 13 minutes a week idea comes from.

    Thanks again, Andrew