When you’re setting up a data stewardship program, you need to start thinking of not only who to assign as data stewards and the operational framework, but also who the data stewards should report to, from a data governance organization perspective. The role of the data steward is usually not a new position that is created, at least not in the early maturity stages of the data governance program, but rather a set of responsibilities being added to an existing role. That can add some complexity to figuring out the reporting structure of part of this role, so usually this is a decision that needs to be made by any or all of the following 3 parties:
- Data governance program manager/ lead – in some cases this could be the Chief Data Officer
- Data governance committee
- Manager of the department that the role currently reports into (ex: If the data stewardship is a responsibility as part of a business role, for example a Sales Manager, then their supervisor or the manager of that department, the Director of Sales Department, will play a role on the reporting decision)
The following 5 considerations need to be made when determining what the reporting structure should be:
1. Organization’s culture
The data steward needs to be given the necessary authority over the data they are stewarding, in order to be successful. They also need to have the support and sponsorship of senior management in their organization. Who that senior management should be, depends on the culture. If an organization is more business than process driven, then report to the a business leader than a functional head as it will ensure further support for the data stewardship role.
2. Current drivers
Consider what the current driver or drivers are for the data governance program. This will lead you to the main focus of data stewardship, what data sets to first take under the data stewardship’s umbrella, and what business arm of the organization should the data steward reside under. If regulatory compliance is the main driver, then you might want to report to the manager in Legal or the Privacy/Risk office.
3. The position level
The seniority of the role that this role is given to depends on the above factors, but also the size and structure of the organization. If the organizational structure is mostly flat or smaller in size, perhaps the position level is not an important level. For very large organizations, such as international corporations and multi-nationals, it will be beneficial for the data steward to be at an executive level. This send a clear message to the whole organization of the importance of data governance and that data needs to be treated as an asset. If that is not possible, it should at least report to an executive position in order to have exposure over business priorities and direct support from a high-level position.
4. The business processes and systems
Take under considerations the main business processes handling the data under question as well as the systems where the data is created and updated the most. Identify who is the business owner or the main stakeholder of each of these processes and systems. You can then consider to have the data steward report to that individual.
If you want to know about the different types of a data steward, please read our other article, too.
5. Structure type of the organization
There are usually 4 types of organization structure: functional, divisional, matrix, and flat. In the functional one, people who do similar tasks are grouped together in a unit/ department. For example, all graphic designers might be put in the Marketing Department. In a divisional structure, people are grouped into units based on the product/service that meets the needs of a certain type of customer. For example, you can be a Software Developer as part of the MS Office division or as part of the Xbox Games division. The matrix is a mix between the 2 above and the in a flat structure there are no direct reports. Usually, it is this last structure that more authority and influence.
In the end, you want the data steward to report to a person that is:
- Influential within the organization – regardless of where they are in the organization’s hierarchy
- Has access to resources
- Understands the value of data and its management
- Dedicated and spends time to provide necessary support
Who are your data stewards reporting to?