3 surprising data roles

Throughout my career and experience within the data management and data governance industries, I always encounter interesting data roles and responsibilities. Is there a lot of overlap? Definitely! That’s why I think it is most important to focus on the meaning of the roles – their responsibilities. Let me also give you a tip:

” It’s usually easier for people to agree on meaning rather than to agree on the name of a role.”

Maybe that’s why we see a lot of synonyms, such as a Data Caretaker, rather than a Data Steward, or a Data Quality Coordinator/ Specialist/ Analyst. Let’s not even mention the entire Senior and Associate appends to some titles. Sometimes you can find the same responsibilities under a Senior Manager and Associate Director, but I think that merits its own article to showcase all these overlaps and synonyms. The roles outlines here, similarly to the “5 data roles you might not know about (but should)” article, are not really synonyms of other known roles, but are a quite different. So let’s go over the following 3 surprising data roles you should know about:

Data Savy Manager

Straight from the data value map, this role “has a good understanding of how data impacts on their business and are able to define and guide data initiatives across all four stages {acquisition, integration, analysis, delivery} to improve business performance.” (thank you Ken O’Connor for introducing me to this role). This position:

  • Understands the creative ways that data can be captured, analyzed, disseminated
  • Helps to integrate the data to create new insights
  • Creates robust data models and systems that deliver the needed business outcomes
  • Mitigates the risks around the legal, ethical and privacy considerations of data

Data Influencer (or Data Evangelizer)

Considered the “right arm” of the Chief Data Officer (CDO), this role is responsible for spreading the importance of data within an organization as well as the adoption of data management and data governance best practices (thank you Gilles Fiolet for introducing me to this role). Responsibilities include:

  • Developing and executing a change management program
  • Carrying out communications to all business and data stakeholders regarding data tasks, projects, programs
  • Consulting with stakeholders on current and future initiatives which require at least an aspect of data acquisition, creation, integration, maintenance, and dissemination
  • Conducting impact analyses, assessing change readiness and identifying key data stakeholders
  • Providing input, documenting requirements and supporting the design and delivery of data management training programs

Data Facilitator (or Data Coach)

This role guides stakeholders in data-informed decision-making (thank you Jim Smith for introducing me to this role). Data facilitators may establish and participate in data stewardship teams and help:

  • Stakeholders properly interpret organization data
  • Craft the overall vision for data use to make decisions
  • Provide a level of guidance and support for stakeholders to improve their data literacy
  • Model data use and interpretation
  • Staff with data interpretation by preparing data reports and related materials

What other surprising data roles do you have in your own organization? How do they differ from the more classical and standard data roles?

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About the author 

George Firican

George Firican is the Director of Data Governance and Business Intelligence at the University of British Columbia, which is ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. His passion for data led him towards award-winning program implementations in the data governance, data quality, and business intelligence fields. Due to his desire for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing, he founded LightsOnData, a website which offers free templates, definitions, best practices, articles and other useful resources to help with data governance and data management questions and challenges. He also has over twelve years of project management and business/technical analysis experience in the higher education, fundraising, software and web development, and e-commerce industries.

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