what is a data governance council

I get these questions a lot from organizations wanting to start a data governance program or who are in the early stages of planning. A data governance council is a governing body responsible for the strategic guidance of the data governance program, prioritization for the data governance projects and initiatives, approval of organization-wide data policies and standards, as well as enabling ongoing support, understanding and awareness of the data governance program.

Is it always called a data governance council?

No, as with most things, it depends on your own culture and industry. I’ve seen many names describing this governing body, some of which are:

  • data governance committee
  • data governance steering council/ committee/ group
  • data governance advisory council/ committee/ group
  • data stewardship council/ committee
  • data owners’ council/ committee

Regardless of the name, the council tends to have the following roles, though these are subjective to the data governance operating model you will adopt.

Roles and responsibilities:

  • approve data standards/ business rules/ procedures/ policies – some councils are formed at a working level and they are tasked with not only approving these, but also creating them, at least for organization/ enterprise-wide data
  • approve best practices, tools, resources to be used in order to ensure set deliverables
  • oversee the initiatives of the data governance program at a strategic level
    • identify data governance projects
    • set goals for the program
    • oversee progress
  • identify data stakeholders and assign data stewards to resolve identified data issues – read “understanding the different types of data steward” for more details
  • provide resolution of organization/ enterprise-level data issues and anything else which is not resolved at the data stewardship working group level
  • serve as a communication vehicle towards the organization and their own functional/ business area
    • promote the objectives and importance of the governance program
    • inform stakeholders of decisions, action items, and scope of work determined by the council (including standards, policies, guidelines, etc.)
    • advocate the benefits of the data governance program to create awareness, understanding, and financial support
    • create a data centric culture where data is everyone’s responsibility

Download the free communication plan template if you need one


In essence, this body sets the strategic direction for WHAT the data governance program needs to accomplish and WHEN it needs to accomplish it. It also ensures everyone knows about it and that it gets the support it needs. Communication is very important.

These roles and responsibilities also speak to its importance and why you should also have one. The reality is that the council puts the data ownership into the hands of the business. Priorities around data governance issues are set according to business needs, by business owners and not by the data governance lead. It also ensures a wider visibility into the program by all stakeholders, and offers a medium to provide resolutions on data related issues.

  • […] Data Governance Councils are comprised of executive or senior staff from both business and IT, as well as subject matter experts from various departments. It’s a good idea to ensure that most if not all of the organisation’s Data Owners are also included in this council. This will help ensure that top-level strategies are being informed by up to date intel, as well as that they’re being effectively communicated to the working teams responsible for carrying them out. […]

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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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