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How to Become a Data Steward

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An essential role in any data-driven organization, a data steward is expected to manage and protect valuable data resources while ensuring that the integrity of the data remains intact. A steward must ensure that the data is useful to the company and meets its business objectives. Data stewards are also responsible for monitoring the data that goes in and out of an organization.

One big misconception is that being a data steward is a distinct position. In reality, it is a responsibility that can be undertaken by anyone who has a grasp of Data Management.

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Therefore, data stewards are individuals responsible for ensuring that the data is accessible, consistent, usable, and secure – at any point in time. They are expected to monitor the entire data lifecycle: collecting, categorizing, using, storing, archiving, and even deleting data. 

There are three types of data stewards: 

  • Domain data stewards maintain data in a particular domain whose ownership is shared across the various departments in an enterprise. Example: Customer data steward.
  • Business data stewards maintain all the relevant data for a particular business operation. Example: Marketing data steward.
  • System data stewards monitor the data in IT systems. A key distinction is that they focus on how data interacts with other enterprise applications, whereas the rest focus on human interactions with the data. Example: Enterprise data warehouse architect.

This article will focus on the specific responsibilities data stewards are tasked with, their skills, and how they can get certified.

What Does a Data Steward Do? 

Data stewards are essentially the gatekeepers of an organization’s data. That means that they serve as a reference point for anyone that needs access to the data, has questions about it, or wants to store some of it. 

Data stewards are asked about the relevancy of particular data, how to improve the quality of the data, where it can be stored, and how long it needs to be stored. 

Here are a few more responsibilities:

  • Data cataloging: This includes the process of drafting up an inventory of data assets. Stewards profile and categorize data and compile it into a data catalog consisting of all the needed information. 
  • Data workflow: Data stewards ensure the flow of data between stakeholders in a project by clearly dividing the project phases. Data stewards also maintain ease by providing various self-serving tools like Power BI to help gain essential insights, among other things. In a nutshell, data stewards make data more accessible for everyone in an organization.
  • Data monitoring: Plenty of daily interactions in an organization leave room for fraud and other malicious forces to exploit an organization’s data. However, this threat can be significantly decreased with an effective data monitoring strategy. The data lifecycle is monitored – from data creation to storage in the archives.
  • Data advocacy: Stewards are also responsible for promoting prudent data usage along with the values of collaboration and teamwork. This is done by regularly drafting better and more effective policies and updating processes.
  • Data security: Stewards ensure that the access to confidential data is regulated, and they implement measures against data tampering or theft. They employ various strategies and policies to detect and mitigate theft or tampering with confidential data, including basic data protection measures like data lifecycle management and encryption.

What Skills Are Necessary to Become a Data Steward? 

Handling an organization’s data is a huge undertaking. Although data stewardship is not a separate role within an organization, it typically requires an individual who has two to five years of experience with Data Management. 

Although no formal degrees in data stewardship are available, you can enroll in certification courses to accelerate your career. If you aspire to data stewardship, you will be expected to have a strong foundation with a bachelor’s degree in data science or a related subject.

That said, data stewardship demands an elaborate set of skills from an individual. Some of them include:

  • Data strategy: A massive part of what data stewards do involves drafting and implementing policies for effective Data Management. They strategize how an organization deals with collecting and processing data. They are also entrusted with responsibilities like making uniform policies on collecting, recording, and sharing data. This ensures homogeneity in how employees across the organization deal with data.
  • Communication skills: Data stewards are responsible for training other employees of the organization on their policies in the form of training events or memos. They must have excellent communication skills because they need to speak at training events or draft policies that are easy to understand.
  • Collaborative skills: Since they are responsible for collecting and maintaining data, data stewards need to foster healthy collaboration. They draft and implement operational policies and maintain a glossary of relevant terminology. This is only possible with abundant departmental knowledge and collaborative skills. Departmental knowledge is also an essential skill for data stewardship roles because without it, gathering relevant and beneficial data would be a hassle.
  • Knowledge of regulations: Compliance regulations ensure that data is well organized and maintained, safeguarded against theft or misuse. Solid knowledge of compliance regulations such as GDPR and CCPA allows data stewards to ensure that their data is protected and enables them to avoid penalties. Data laws are very rigid, and not adhering to them can have serious legal repercussions.
  • Knowledge of databases: Knowledge of how to construct and use databases to analyze information is a crucial skill to locate errors or malicious data. A steward needs to know precisely how to manage current Data Management platforms. They need experience in it and must be aware of the varying technicalities.
  • Problem-solving skills: Retaining the integrity of data and locating and rectifying errors are two fundamental skills for any data steward – both require the individual to be an expert problem solver. These skills also come in handy in policy drafting, an integral responsibility.

Data Stewardship for Business

One of the ways that data stewardship is especially advantageous to businesses is that it allows them to receive more of their data and witness an increase in its quality. They’re required to analyze data, identify pain points and glitches, and develop solutions to solve these issues. Therefore, the quality of the data is significantly improved.

Besides, it allows companies to have a dedicated point of contact to help them with all their data-related issues. This individual can direct the Data Governance strategies and streamline processes. The role grants organizations control over their data. It mitigates the process of Data Management through advanced legal and ethical risk control and makes sure that the data is in line with changing compliance requirements.

As a practice, it ensures productivity and streamlines processes. It facilitates the easy locating of Data Management areas and data sources. It also prevents the creation of data swamps within the company’s database. Instead, it leads to creating dedicated databases like data warehouses and data lakes. 

It also keeps the overhead costs low because the poor organization of data takes a toll on its management, resulting in unnecessary expenditure. And it saves funds that would otherwise be spent on other management activities. All in all, data stewardship helps stakeholders make accurate data-driven decisions which, in return, gives a better ROI.

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

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