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Data Stewardship:

Data Steward - Person responsible for managing the data in a

corporation in terms of integrated, consistent definitions,
structures, calculations, derivations, and so on.
Steward - from Old English for "keeper of the sty", a sty ward.
Data Steward - Person responsible for managing the data in a corporation in
terms of integrated, consistent definitions, structures, calculations,
derivations, and so on.
Corporations are demanding better and better sources of data. The explosive
growth of data warehousing and sophistication of the access tools are proof
that data is one of the most critical assets any company possesses. Data, in
the form of information, must be delivered to decision-makers quickly,
concisely and more importantly, accurately.
The data warehouse is an excellent mechanism for getting information into
the hands of decision-makers. However, it is only as good as the data that
goes into it. Problems occur when we attempt to acquire and deliver this
information. A major effort must be made in defining, integrating and
synchronizing the data coming from the myriad operational systems
producing data throughout the corporation. Who should be responsible for
this important task? The answer for a growing number of companies is a new
business function called Data Stewardship.
What is Data Stewardship?
Data Stewardship has, as its main objective, the management of the
corporation's data assets in order to improve their reusability, accessibility,
and quality. It is the Data Stewards' responsibility to approve business
naming standards, develop consistent data definitions, determine data
aliases, develop standard calculations and derivations, document the
business rules of the corporation, monitor the quality of the data in the data
warehouse, define security requirements, and so forth (see Table 1 for a list
of the data integration issues determined by Data Stewards).
This data about data, or meta data, developed by Data Stewards can then be
used by the corporation's knowledge workers in their everyday analyses to
determine what comparisons should be made, which trends are significant,
that apples have indeed been compared to apples, etc.
Just as the demand for a data warehouse with good data has grown, the need
for a Data Stewardship function has likewise grown. More and more
companies are recognizing the critical role this function serves in the overall
quest for high quality, available data. Such an integrated, corporate-wide
view of the data provides the foundation for the shared data so critical in the
data warehouse.
What qualities should you look for in a Data Steward?
Data Stewards are well respected by the end user community because of
their thorough understanding of how the business works. They have the
confidence of both the IT and end user communities that they are not
creating meta data and business rules that are impossible to implement or
counter to the corporation's culture.
Table 2 lists the skill sets for a Data Steward. These are divided into two sets:
Technical Skills and Interpersonal Skills.
The types of technical skills may seem more clear-cut that the interpersonal
ones. Data Stewards will need some knowledge of IT systems and DBMSs
employed in the corporation. This ensures that the Data Stewards remain
grounded in the reality of what is technologically feasible. Secondly Data
Stewards should be able to understand both logical and physical data
models, how entities relate to each other, what redundancy is, why
normalization rules are important. They are not, however, usually responsible
for the creation of these models; that usually falls into the domain of the Data
Administration group.
Interpersonal skills are sometimes overlooked when choosing a Data
Steward; yet these skills tend to be most important. Many times the Data
Steward will find himself or herself in the situation of trying to facilitate an
agreement between two differing factions. Data integration can be a highly
charged issue affecting the very core of how a company will continue to do
business. Because of this, the Data Steward must be able to reach a
consensus wherever possible or at least a reasonable compromise. Secondly,
these resources often must perform the difficult role of Organizational
Change Agent, smoothing the way for changes that will inevitably happen as
integration of data occurs.
What is the scope of a Data Steward?
A typical corporate Data Stewardship function should have one Data Steward
assigned to each major data subject area. These subject areas consist of the
critical data entities or subjects such as Customer, Order, Product, Market
Segment, Employee, Organization, Inventory, etc. Usually, there are about
15-20 major subject areas in any corporation. As an example, one Data
Steward would be responsible for the Customer subject area and another
would be assigned to the Product subject area.
The Data Steward responsible for a subject area usually works with a select
group of employees representing all aspects of the company for that subject
area. This committee of peers is responsible for resolving integration issues
concerning their subject area. The results of the committee's work are passed
on to the Data Administration and Database Administration functions for
implementation into the corporate data models, meta data repository, and
ultimately, the data warehouse construct itself.
Just as there is a Data Architect in most Data Administration functions, there
should be a "lead" Data Steward responsible for the work of the individual
Data Stewards. The lead Data Steward's responsibility is to determine and
control the domain of each Data Steward. These domains can become muddy
and unclear, especially where subject areas intersect. Political battles can
develop between the Data Stewards if their domains are not clearly
Where to look for a good Data Steward?
Data Stewards generally come from either the end user community or the IT
Subject matter experts from within the end user community make good Data
Stewards. They are quite knowledgeable about specific parts of the
corporation. However, they may need training in some of the technical
aspects of data models and IT systems. In addition, they must be familiar
with business areas other than their own. Otherwise they can be perceived as
biased toward their perspectives on the data.
Data modelers from the IT Data Administration function also make good Data
Stewards. They understand the technical issues of data integration and
usually acquire a great deal of exposure to the business community while
modeling the business rules, data entities and attributes. In addition, they
generally have good rapport with end users and Database Administrators
alike. However, the resources must have the respect of the end user
community and the authority to make decisions on their behalf.
How do you differentiate the roles of Data Stewards, Data
Administrators, and Database Administrators?
Each function must have its own roles and responsibilities, spelled out clearly
to avoid any confusion. There is little overlap in terms of each group's
responsibilities; however, there is a great deal of collaboration and
communication that must take place to ensure the data assets of the
corporation are used to their maximum return on investment. Table 3 lists
the specific roles for each function - Data Stewardship, Data Administration
and Database Administration.
A final note on the importance of Data Stewardship.
The Data Stewardship position probably has the highest profile within the
corporation of the three mentioned above. Why? Because the Data Steward
acts as the conduit between IT and end users. They have the difficult but very
rewarding task of guaranteeing that one of the corporation's most critical
assets, its data, is used to its fullest capacity.
For Data Stewardship to succeed in your corporation, a new incentive
paradigm must be developed - one that rewards people on the basis of
horizontal integration rather than only vertical or "bottom line" success. As
long as a department or division is solely focused on its bottom line, it will
see no benefit in changing its business practices to integrate data and
business rules with another department or division. The new incentives
should be driven by the success of the groups to resolve integration issues, to
develop unified definitions, to change business practices to conform to the
new standards, etc.
Table 1: Data integration issues
Data Stewards are responsible for the following:

• Standard Business Naming Standards

• Standard Entity Definitions
• Standard Attribute Definitions
• Business Rules Specification
• Standard Calculation and Summarization Definitions
• Entity and Attribute Aliases
• Data Quality Analyses
• Sources of Data for the Data Warehouse
• Data Security Specification
• Data Retention Criteria

Table 2: Skill sets needed for Data Stewards

Technical Skill Set:

• Basic Understanding of Data Modeling (Conceptual, Logical and

• Basic Understanding of DBMSs
• Basic Understanding of Data Warehouse concepts
• Facilitation Skill
• Technical Writing

Interpersonal Skill Set:

• Solid Understanding of the Business

• Excellent Communication Skills
• Objectivity
• Creativity
• Diplomacy
• Team Player
• Well Respected in Their Subject Area
Table 3: Roles/Responsibilities of Data Stewards, Data
Administrators and Database Administrators
For the Data Steward:

• Resolving Data Integration Issues

• Determining Data Security
• Documenting Data Definitions, Calculations, Summarizations, etc.
• Maintaining/Updating Business Rules
• Analyzing and Improving Data Quality

For the Data Administrators:

• Translating the Business Rules into Data Models

• Maintaining Conceptual, Logical and Physical Data Models
• Assisting in Data Integration Resolution
• Maintaining Meta data Repository

For the Database Administrators:

• Generating Physical DB Schema

• Performing Database Tuning
• Creating Database Backups
• Planning for Database Capacity
• Implementing Data Security Requirements