The Role of Existing Data Stewards in Driving Governance Programs

Author: Jim Barker

In the previous blog post, I spoke of the challenge with checkbox approaches to data governance programs. This part focuses on the sentiment that many aspects of data stewardship are already happening, and good data governance programs embrace that activity and grow from it. 


There are two aspects to this: (1) There are people doing many data stewardship tasks that are working in functional or business unit roles and are effective at those data tasks, while often going unnoticed; (2) It is incredibly valuable to have people working with data embedded in the organizations they serve. By bringing together these two aspects, many firms have seen the benefits of stronger federated stewardship. It used to be a struggle to get buy-in for this type of partnership, but the dialog around federated governance with mesh and increased cross-organizational collaboration have made this a much easier sell. 


Taking a look at the writings of a few industry leaders, the idea of federated governance has grown dramatically. Most notably, Bob Seiners writing on non-invasive data governance as one way to push forward the idea of using current staff in their current location for data stewardship has grown in popularity. Many firms struggle to grasp these concepts, but finding ways to share stories of partnership, collaboration, and alignment is a great place to start. Remember, people are doing this work already, we are just trying to organize it better and recognize those accomplishments. Here are some ways you can do it:


  1. Finding current data stewards: Data leaders need to find ways to explore their organization to find the folks doing these tasks. A great place to start is master data. Look at who is creating and updating customer, employee, product, and supplier data. Identify those individuals, and use them to build your business case for federated governance. It is important to accept recognized folks providing this key contribution. Failing to integrate and pursue this federated model can limit progress, and being successful can be the basis for establishing a community of practice. 
  2. Community of practice: Typically, centers of excellence have been established to organize data and functional professionals in central organizations. These often take the form of a large, centralized team comprised of data around cash services aka customer, global supply chain or vendor management, and material provisioning or material/product master. The community of practice does things differently. It is the idea that you leave staff where they build out communication channels to cooperate with people close to those they serve and as part of an embedded and collaborative framework.


The idea is to leave employees in their functional or business units and allow them to continue to embrace their department needs and work together without yet another reorganization into a large central group. Think of it as embedded data experts. 


In short, learn who is doing the data work today, embrace their contributions, promote their successes, and build out a community of practice to share what’s working and improve what’s not to have a great federated stewardship function. 


For more information on data governance and communities of practice, reach out to Wavicle.