Dear Laura: Should We Hire Full-Time Data Stewards?

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Click to learn more about author Laura Madsen.

Welcome to the Dear Laura blog series! As I’ve been working to challenge the status quo on Data Governance – I get a lot of questions about how it will “really” work. I’ll be sharing these questions and answers via this DATAVERSITY® series. Last year I wrote the book “Disrupting Data Governance” because I firmly believe that poor Data Governance programs are getting in the way of data programs being as successful as possible.

Read the most recent blog posts in this series here and here.

“Dear Laura,

We have had a Data Governance function up and running for several years to varying degrees of success. One thing we are considering now, to stabilize our output, is to make our data stewards full-time rather than the part-time ‘job add-on’ we have had in the past. Have you seen this work? What are the pros and cons?

Ready in Raleigh”

Hi, Ready!

Congratulations on having a Data Governance program running for a few years! That in and of itself is a big accomplishment – kudos to you and your organization. The hallmark of great governance programs is their willingness to thoughtfully adjust as changes occur. Your question about stewardship is a great sign that you are willing to make tough choices to ensure success.

The short answer to your question is: Full-time Data Stewardship is awesome. Go forth and conquer! The long answer is that it’s probably not practical to do it unilaterally and may shock your executive support system into questioning benefit against cost. Here’s why … when Data Governance was first created, it was feasible to assign a “steward” to guide each domain of data, to anxiously wring their hands over every cell of data because back in the day, data warehouses were minuscule compared to the behemoth modern data platforms we are all trying to navigate now. Scaling systems is one thing, scaling people is a whole different bag of tricks.  

Yes, you will need full-time data stewards for your primary data domains. Those domains represent a lot of your business and follow typical rules for primary Data Management (often called “Master Data Management”). Put your full-time data stewards there, and have a few part-time data stewards on important data domains that don’t meet the criteria for primary Data Management. The biggest pro of this approach is you will get the benefit of people dedicated to ensuring that those critical primary data domains are as solid as they can be without the big con of a giant price tag for making all Data Stewardship functions full-time. Anytime you can give people the role clarity that comes with a dedicated function, you are likely to see the corresponding output. 

Data Stewardship is the oil that keeps your Data Governance function humming along (sorry for the overused analogy). As such, you will likely need different Data Stewardship capacities – from full-time for primary data domains to part-time for important domains to on-demand data stewards for projects that pop up and need additional support. Manage your stewardship capability like that and you will start to see big wins in output.

Go forth and conquer!

Do you have a question about Data Governance you’d like me to answer? Email me at Laura at viagurus dot com.

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