3 roles of the data governance sponsor

As most of us already know, the data governance sponsor plays a critical role in the success of a data governance program. Without sponsorship at an executive level, data governance programs often lack the funding and resources required to get off the ground. They simply remain at the initiative level or in a best case scenario, they materialize in separate pockets at project level. Having a data governance sponsor, at the executive level nonetheless, is not just giving the green light of the program and them saying “I support this!”. Ideally, their role should also include the following:

1. Championing the program

The sponsor needs to show their support of the program throughout the organization. Prior to getting the program off the ground, they need to help advocate for it in order to secure buy-in throughout the organization, gain support from fellow executives and/or upper management, and ultimately help secure the necessary resources.  Yes, also putting their stamp of approval and green lighting the program sends a strong message, but this message should be constantly reiterated and communicated. This is particularly important when the program is first getting off the ground and it still requires organization-wide adoption and awareness. They should be clearly visible within the organisation as the driving force supporting the program.

2. Creating responsibility

The role of the sponsor during program planning is to create 2 important roles. The first is that of a data governance program lead. Ideally this becomes the role of a Chief Data Officer, but in smaller organizations this can be a Data Governance Manager, Director, or Lead.  Usually, together with this lead, the role of a data governance council is then created. Checkout the “Data governance council – what is it and why do you need one?” article for more details on this role. Any subsequent roles, such as the data stewardship ones, are the responsibility of the lead and/or council.

After these 2 roles are created, the sponsor needs to make sure that both are effectively conducting their leadership responsibilities.

3. Clarifying priorities

The data governance program lead can sometimes be on the ground level and ensure the program’s scope is met and its plan is properly executed, but they often need a level of guidance from the program sponsor. The program sponsor can help clarify business priorities and goals as well as the organization’s business roadmap and strategic objectives. This will ensure that the data governance’s deliverables are tied to the business priorities and help identify when priorities change. And trust me, they do change. As a result, issues and challenges can pop-up which affect the alignment of the program with the business. In the end, it is the sponsor that owns the vision for the program and needs to provide clear leadership and direction throughout its duration to make sure issues are appropriately overcome and goals met.


Data governance sponsorship is important and ideally the sponsor continues to provide their support long after the kick-off. Yes, their involvement is most important in the planning and launching phases in order to secure the needed resources and consensus from the organization, as well as creating the roles of the council and the program lead. Though, their active involvement is also needed to ensure the program is kept on track and still meeting the needs of the business.

What other roles does your data governance sponsor have? Is your sponsor just one person or a group of people?

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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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