Don’t give up the day job. That is good advice for data stewards, but not because there is no future in their new governance role. Rather it is a recommendation for ensuring they provide the best standard of stewardship at the same time as spreading quality and standards across their organisation.
To be effective, a data steward needs to combine technical understanding of data with a real knowledge of its business context. As the practitioners interviewed in our cover feature demonstrate, the best data stewards are found within lines of business where data usage is critical.
Experience of the impact of poor quality, missing or non-compliant data on a business process is invaluable. When it comes to understanding how data needs to be captured, explaining its impact on that process from a real-life perspective is very persuasive. Equally, seeing the change to a process and its outcomes from improved data is highly rewarding.
That is why data stewards step forward and volunteer for the role. After all, they are taking on an additional burden, which may not necessarily pay them any more. The job is complex, involves interfacing with multiple functions and can sometimes feel like being caught between a rock (the downstream business struggling with poor quality data) and a hard place (the upstream process responsible for that piece of data).
Peristence will be vital, as will a high degree of diplomacy and patience. The data issues which governance programmes are intended to sort out did not spring into life overnight. They reflect years and even decades of a focus on ensuring the availability of data through the IT infrastructure, rather than the accuracy of that data.
So anybody looking to become a short-term hero by riding in to sort out data needs to think again. On the other hand, when resolution does occur – and success stories are just starting to emerge – there will be a quiet satisfaction from having been a part of it.
On the supplier side, a number of people have seen the need to provide external support and resources to data stewards, among them Adrian Gregory of DQM Group, profiled in this month’s issue. Without the commitment of individuals like him, as well as the client-side data stewards, it is easy to wonder just how much would really change.