Blog post

TechTarget misses the mark with “data stewardship” definition

By Andrew White | May 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

MDMMaster Data ManagementInformation PolicyInformation Lifecycle Management (ILM)Information Governance

Its Friday, its 5 o’clock, so its must be “Crackerjack”!  Well, ignoring the very British TV series from the 70’s, I was packing my laptop away for the day when this email popped into my inbox, from Techtarget, with one phrase listed: “data stewardship”.  Well, that is red rag to this bull.

I instantly stopped logging off, and clicked on the link.  This took me to a “definition” of data stewardship.  The definition started like this:

Data stewardship is the management and oversight of corporate data by designated personnel who typically don’t “own” the data but are responsible for tasks such as developing common data definitions and identifying data quality issues.

The fuller definition is here.

There were a few items I had issues with  – and though its Friday, I just had to comment.

I liked the following:

  • Data stewards document agreed-upon data definitions and formats and ensure that business users adhere to specified standards.

But I was less keen on this:

  • Data stewards can come from either the IT department or business units. They often act as liaisons between IT and the business side, functioning both as “data coordinators” who track the movement of data inside an organization and “data correctors” who understand and enforce internal rules on how data can be used.

In our work with our clients, we stress how “data stewardship” has to come from the business.  For us, data stewardship is about “policy enforcement” but this requires a business acumen, most likely NOT found in IT, nor is it the responsibility of IT for this work.  If IT ends up doing this work, it is very hard for business to justify “staying involved” with “policy setting (what we call the role of governance).  And too often history is littered with IT efforts to steward data.

Now, to be fair, in actual engagements with users, I tend to be more precise.  I tend to offer up:

  • Business data/information stewards
  • IT data/information stewards.

The business data stewards are the real stewards, who for “13 minutes a week” do the work of monitoring and enforcing information governance policies.  The collaboration the Techtarget rightly talks about with IT roles (architects and more) is the interface to the IT data steward.  An IT role that supports the business version of the steward.  But I use the term “steward” in relation to IT very carefully.  We always stress how stewardship is from the business, by the business, for the business.

So this blog is not meant to be inflammatory or argumentative – it is just looking for clarity.  Hopefully some comments can provide some color.

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