5 data roles you might not know about

Participating as a speaker at different international conferences and being engaged in different data governance communities, provides me with a lot of interactions with data professionals from different industries, countries, and organizational cultures. I’m always interested to know how each organization develops and evolves its data governance program, how it structures its operating model, and what challenges and successes it had. Why? It’s not just pure curiosity, but a desire to learn from the experience of others, as well as my own.

From the different conversations about operating models, and different roles and responsibilities, I found out about some interesting data governance roles which I find useful enough to share as they might fit within your own unique program. These are the

  1. Data curator
  2. Data watcher
  3. Data docent
  4. Data broker
  5. Data trustee

Data curator

I’ve seen this as a synonym for a data steward, but not only. The particular data curator role I would like to describe is one which determines:

  1. The useful information to be transformed from a hard-copy source into a digital one
  2. The metadata to be added to existing digital assets in order to be easily found retrieved in the future
  3. The validation of an asset by finding and cataloging trusted referenced of its source and credibility

Though it can aide data quality management practices, it should not be confused with it. Besides assuring data quality, the curation activities enable data discovery and retrieval, information value, and re-usability over time.

Want to learn more about the 4 different data steward types?


Data watcher

This role works closely with the Data Governance team and program, but usually resides in a Privacy and Security unit or Legal and Ethics. The role:

  • Monitors data usage to certify it complies with the organization’s mission, goals, and vision
  • Protects the end user’s individual rights and interests
  • Ensures transparency and accountability into data collection, creation, maintenance, dissemination, and destruction practices

Data docent

This role refers to a trainer on anything related to data within an organization. They are tasked with on-boarding of new employees for any roles around data management, data creation and acquisition, or any ongoing data training needs. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Creating data models (in collaboration with data custodians)
  • Developing on-boarding documentation on data entry, data usage and data retrieval procedures
  • Training data stewards and data owners in existing data governance procedures, policies, and standards
  • Collaborating with data privacy officers to create documentation and training materials and raise privacy and security awareness

Data broker

This role works closely with data custodians and Business Intelligence professionals in order to:

  • Provide them with access to data sets
  • Monitor and audit current data access
  • Create table views for particular data access needs
  • Compile a master data view of a specific instance of a data domain

In essence, they help data integration teams, report writers, data analysts, etc. access the data they need in order to meet their objectives.

Data trustee

Very similar to a data owner, even though it is not in role’s daily tasks to create, acquire or manage data,  they are responsible for the data in their area by:

  • Ensuring data quality
  • Approving data standards
  • Developing business processes for the acquisition, creating, management, dissemination of data
  • Defining business terms and publish them in an enterprise business glossary
  • Establishing data quality metrics
  • Ensuring staff members in their area are actively participating in data governance processes
  • Contributing and deciding on the priorities of the data governance program

What unique data governance roles does your organization have and how do they add value?

  • Sherry Michaels says:

    Great article, George! I really like the breakdown and link to various data steward roles. Makes so much sense! If more companies adopted this type of breakdown, I believe there would be less of a battle over who owns what, who should make changes and updates and where the business and IT fall into the data governance process. And I believe it would be much easier for everyone to see how many people/areas it takes to run a successful data governance oriented organization.

    • Thank you Sherry. These 5 roles only outline some of the most unique and unusual ones I’ve encountered around data governance, but there are more other traditional ones which we should all be aware of. These can be split based on their different levels within the organization: executive, strategic, tactical, and operational. Some examples of these roles are: data steward (4 different types), data custodian, data governance lead, data owner, data governance council member and many others.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    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.

    You may also like: