In today's data-driven world, organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of effective data stewardship. A well-implemented data stewardship program ensures that data is managed responsibly, enabling organizations to leverage their data assets for better decision-making and business outcomes. In this article, we will explore the key elements and strategies for building a best-in-class data stewardship program.

Part 1: Understanding Data Stewardship

Data stewardship plays a crucial role in overseeing data quality, governance, and privacy within an organization. Data stewards are responsible for ensuring that data is handled ethically, meeting regulatory requirements, and supporting the organization's goals and objectives. They work closely with business leaders, IT professionals, legal teams, and other stakeholders to establish clear guidelines and processes for data management.

One important aspect of data stewardship is collaboration and communication. Data stewards must collaborate with various stakeholders to define roles, responsibilities, and accountability for data management. They work with business leaders to understand their needs and provide support in leveraging data effectively. Effective communication ensures that everyone within the organization understands the importance of data stewardship and actively participates in the program.

Data governance is closely tied to data stewardship. By implementing robust data governance practices, organizations can define the rules, standards, and processes for data management. Data stewards play a key role in implementing and enforcing these governance practices, ensuring that data is managed consistently and in compliance with regulations.

Part 2: Strategies for Building a Best-in-Class Data Stewardship Program

Creating the Right Energy

Cultivating the right energy within a data stewardship program is essential for its success. This involves creating an inclusive and collaborative environment where data stewards feel empowered and engaged. By fostering a positive culture, organizations can drive enthusiasm and dedication among data stewards. This can be achieved through various means, such as:

  • Encouraging open communication and active participation within the data stewardship community
  • Recognizing and rewarding the contributions of data stewards through programs like Bravo systems or professional development opportunities
  • Providing avenues for data stewards to showcase their expertise and thought leadership within the organization

Change Management

Strong change management is crucial for implementing and sustaining a data stewardship program. Organizations should actively manage the process of transitioning to a data-driven culture, ensuring that employees understand the importance of data stewardship and are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge. Key steps in change management include:

  • Clearly articulating the need for data stewardship and the benefits it brings to the organization
  • Providing comprehensive training and resources to data stewards to enhance their capabilities
  • Engaging and involving employees at all levels in the data stewardship program to foster ownership and alignment with organizational goals

All of these should be tied to the What's In It For Me and business goals. It might seem obvious, but reiterating that relationship and importance of data stewardship for the business will also aid with its adoption.

Tailoring the Program to the Organization

One size does not fit all when it comes to data stewardship programs. Organizations should tailor their programs to align with their specific needs, objectives, and organizational structure. This involves defining the role of data stewards, determining the desired outcomes, and gaining executive buy-in for the program. Some considerations for tailoring the program include:

  • Understanding the unique data and business challenges and opportunities within the organization
  • Identifying the key stakeholders and establishing clear lines of communication and collaboration
  • Understanding the organizational culture, business requirements, and the overall drive for starting a data stewardship program
  • Designing a governance framework that fits the organization's size, complexity, culture, and industry regulations

Partnerships with the Business

Building strong partnerships between data stewards and the business is vital for the success of a data stewardship program. Data stewards should collaborate closely with business leaders and stakeholders, understanding their needs and providing support in leveraging data effectively. This partnership fosters trust and ensures that data stewardship is seen as a valuable asset within the organization. Key elements of building partnerships with the business include:

  • Developing a deep understanding of the organization's business processes, objectives, and challenges
  • Actively engaging with business leaders to identify data-driven opportunities and drive business outcomes
  • Providing timely and relevant data insights to support decision-making and improve operational efficiency

This is often the reason why data stewards are often recruited from the business side as they already poses a strong understanding of the business areas that they represent. If you'd like to learn more about best practices for data stewards, check out any of these articles:

Rewards and Recognition

Even though offering rewards and recognition are a part of change management, these need to be singled out to highlight their importance. Recognizing the contributions of data stewards is essential for maintaining their motivation and commitment. Implementing rewards and recognition programs, such as kudos acknowledgements or opportunities for professional development, helps acknowledge the efforts of data stewards and encourages a culture of excellence. Some strategies for rewarding and recognizing data stewards include:

  • Creating a formalized rewards system that acknowledges and celebrates the contributions as well as the achievements of data stewards
  • Providing opportunities for data stewards to attend conferences, training sessions (Hint: take a look at our LightsOnData courses), and industry events to enhance their knowledge and skills
  • Encouraging data stewards to become thought leaders within their respective domains and promoting their work internally and externally

Conclusion

Building a best-in-class data stewardship program requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses understanding the role of data stewards, fostering collaboration, implementing effective change management, tailoring the program to the organization's specific needs, building partnerships with the business, and implementing rewards and recognition initiatives. By following these strategies and embracing a data-driven culture, organizations can establish a robust data stewardship program that maximizes the value of their data assets, ensures regulatory compliance, and drives better business outcomes. With data stewardship at the forefront, organizations can unlock the true potential of their data and gain a competitive edge in today's rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Checkout our Lights On Data Show episode on this topic with our guest, Rohin Bansal, an expert in data stewardship, and the Director of Data Governance at Telus.

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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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