What Is Data Stewardship?

Data stewardship is the collection of practices that ensure an organization’s data is accessible, usable, safe, and trusted. It includes overseeing every aspect of the data lifecycle: creating, preparing, using, storing, archiving, and deleting data, in accordance with an organization’s established data governance principles for promoting data quality and integrity.

Data stewardship encompasses:

  • Knowing what data an organization possesses
  • Understanding where that data is located
  • Ensuring that the data is accessible, usable, safe, and trusted
  • Safeguarding the transparency and accuracy of data lineage
  • Enforcing rules and regulations on how data can be used
  • Helping the organization make most of its data for competitive advantage
  • Driving toward a data-driven culture
  • Being an advocate for trusted data

Data stewardship comes under the umbrella of data governance. But whereas data governance establishes high-level policies for protecting data against loss, corruption, theft, or misuse, data stewardship focuses on making sure those policies are actually followed.

Data stewards are the persons with responsibility for data stewardship. Some people are assigned “data steward” as a formal title. Others assume the role in addition to their regular jobs. Either way, the role is indispensable, as data stewards are basically “data ambassadors” between the data team and the user community, with the ultimate goal of empowering users with trusted data.


Why is Data Stewardship Important?

Data is swiftly overtaking physical assets in terms of value to organizations. Keeping data safe, private, consistent, and of high quality is as important to enterprises today as maintaining factory machinery was in the industrial age. Without trusted data, organizations end up with messy and unreliable heaps of information sitting in multiple databases, platforms, and even individual spreadsheets.

When users don’t trust the data, they aren’t confident about leveraging it to make business decisions or to drive operations. In worst-case scenarios, data of substandard or inconsistent quality can steer organizations in the wrong strategic direction, with disastrous business results. Data stewards prevent this from happening. By establishing consistent data definitions, maintaining business and technical rules, and monitoring and auditing the reliability of the data, they ensure high levels of data quality, integrity, availability, trustworthiness, and privacy protection.

Managing data lineage is an especially important part of data stewardship. Data lineage is the lifecycle of a piece of data: where it originates, what happens to it, what is done to it, and where it moves over time. With visibility into data lineage, including the accompanying business context, data stewards can trace any errors or problems when using data—say, for analytics—back to their root causes.

Because data stewardship is so important, data stewards occupy positions of trust. In fact, for data stewardship to succeed, both technical staff and business professionals must have the utmost confidence in the their organization’s data stewards. Such people form a bridge between data professionals and the community of people who use the data. Because of this, data stewards must have both a big-picture view of how the organization works as well as a strong grasp of the down-to-earth details of how data is created, managed, manipulated, stored, and—most importantly—how it’s used.

It’s also important to note that there are two sides to data stewardship. One is defensive: to guard against the regulatory and reputational risks that come with owning data. To that end, data stewards are champions for information governance within their organizations. They evangelize the reasons for protecting data, and deliver education, training, and mentorship to the workforce.

At the same time, data stewards are the key drivers of the use of data for strategic advantage, and they promote improvements to the business process that create and consume data. For this reason, data stewards must be experts in the business units they serve. They constantly work to inspire users to mak­e the most out of the data—consistently, accurately, and safely—to make smarter business decisions each day. Over time, with strong data stewards in place, employees perform better in their jobs. They make fewer errors. They contact the right customers for upselling and cross-selling. They prioritize the right business initiatives. And they do all this while following data governance policies and processes.


Succeeding with Data Stewardship and Data Governance: Real-World Examples

  • For AIA Singapore, a leading provider of insurance plans for both individuals and businesses, data is everything: it drives sales, strategic decision-making, and efficient operations. But AIA wanted to ensure high quality of data, as well as make it accessible and available to users enterprisewide. Using Informatica Axon Data Governance, AIA developed an enterprise-level data governance management framework and collaborative business glossary—supported through robust data stewardship—that precisely tracked data lineage, ensured data quality, and optimized sales, decisions, and operational costs.

  • A global biotech organization sought to better leverage its business data with advanced analytics to increase service reliability and improve operational efficiency for customers’ genomic experiments. It used Informatica Axon Data Governance, Informatica Enterprise Data Catalog, and Informatica Data Quality with data stewardship practices to enhance services to customers as well as comply with FDA, GDPR, and Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.

  • McGraw Hill Education wanted to grow its digital market share and establish a leadership position for itself as educational publishing continues to shift from print to digital. Today, the group depends on Informatica Axon Data Governance, Informatica Data Quality, and its data stewards to improve decision-making and customer engagement by helping the business understand sales trends, product usage, and to speak the same language about the data.


Why You Should Implement Data Stewardship

You can reap immense advantages by applying data stewardship to your data operations. Ensuring that your data is accessible, usable, safe, and trusted is the single most important step in your journey to be data driven. Data stewardship covers all those attributes. And with their dual roles of protecting data while promoting strategic use of it for competitive advantage, data stewards are critical contributors to the overall success of your business.

Learn More about Data Stewardship

Download your copy of the eBook, “How to Govern Your Data as a Business Asset,” for more practical advice about making sure your data governance initiative is a strategic program that impacts the whole business.

Check out our Data Empowerment Experts webinar series for up-close-and-personal conversations with companies who implemented data governance programs and are sharing the lessons they’ve learned. From best practices on how to get started and scale to recommendations for managing culture change, implementing data stewardship, and measuring value, you’ll find a wealth of first-hand knowledge in these webinars. See the full lineup here.