The Data Governance Organisation Roles & Responsibilities

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The Data Governance Organisation

Roles & Responsibilities

As a consultant, you are taught at an early stage that each organisation is unique. Whether or not that is actually the case is not the topic of this blog post. In any case, a good Data Governance organisation consists of a handful of specific roles with clearly described responsibilities. These roles and responsibilities are described below.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee consists of the executive leaders of the organisation. This could be people at the C-level, but they are usually managers who are responsible for specific business activities that together form a domain (for instance finance, clients or materials). The purpose of the Steering Committee is to facilitate functional decisions. Characteristics of an effective Steering Committee are:

• Right size – The Steering Committee must be big enough to represent all stakeholders, but small enough to be able to quickly analyse important information and make decisions.
• Strategy – The Steering Committee determines the general strategy with specific results and holds the Governance organisation accountable for timelines and outcomes.
• Removing barriers – The Steering Committee must be a means to remove organisational obstacles, not just some meeting for hearing progress reports from project team members.
• Must not be a substitute for hands-on sponsorship.

Data Owner

The Data Owner is responsible for the data within a specific data domain. A data owner has to ensure that the information within that domain is managed properly across different systems and business activities. Data owners are often on the Steering Committee, either as a voting member or as an attending member without voting rights. Specific responsibilities for the Data Owner include:

• Approving the data glossaries and data definitions;
• Ensuring the accuracy of information as used within and throughout the entire organisation;
• Overseeing activities directly related to data quality;
• Assessing and approving the Master Data Management (MDM) approach, results and activities;
• Collaborating with other Data Owners to solve data problems and misunderstandings between the various business units;
• Second-level assessment of data problems that have been identified by Data Stewards;
• Providing input to the Steering Committee about software solutions, policy or legal requirements that could influence the data domain of the Data Owner.

“Data glossaries” describes the characteristics of business-critical data elements in the various systems. This description is important to ensure that everyone knows how data elements are defined, where they are stored, and how good the quality is. While implementing projects, the data glossary will be consulted frequently to check how data elements are affected by certain changes (Feltkamp, 2018).

The role of the Data Owner is often held by senior employees. For instance, the financial director could be the Data Owner of the financial data in the organisation. However, this level of seniority means that a Data Owner is often not able to be involved on a daily basis in activities focused on managing data quality. Since Data Ownership is often not a full-time job, the Data Owner is generally supported by one or more Data Stewards.

Data Steward

The key difference between a Data Owner and a Data Steward is that the Data Steward is responsible for day-to-day management of the quality of the defined datasets. The Data Steward is the Subject Matter Expert (SME) who understands and communicates the significance of the information and how it is used. The Data Steward also gives the Data Owner insight into the general purposes of the data, but will also be highly involved in the details of how these purposes can be achieved. Within an organisation, a Data Steward often collaborates with other Stewards in a Data Steward Council.

This decision-making body makes decisions about possible data issues and comes up with solutions. The Data Steward represents the Data Owner in most discussions. This person will go back to the Data Owner and/or the Steering Committee if the Data Steward Council cannot reach a consensus on how a data problem should be solved. Other tasks for the Data Steward include:

• Drawing up data definitions and documenting permitted values;
• Defining rules for data creation, data use or derivatives of data;
• Identifying and documenting current and preferred data systems;
• Setting data quality goals.

Some organisations have defined formal Data Steward roles, often carried out by people from the business line who have been made available for those roles. Other organisations appoint Data Stewardship responsibilities to employees who have other responsibilities as well. Regardless of how the position is defined, an effective Data Steward will follow the pre-defined data definitions, identify data quality problems and ensure that the Business follows the specified standards (IBC, 2018).


Each of these roles is an important part of a properly managed Data Governance organisation. However, who is best suited to fulfil these roles in an organisation, and how these roles influence each other, depends on the MDM maturity of the organisation concerned. Does this mean that each organisation is essentially unique after all?

Are you curious to find out which stage of MDM maturity your organisation has reached right now? Or are you in the process of identifying your organisation’s maturity level, and would you like to have a sounding board? Feel free to contact us.

Jacco Oudeman

References consulted for this post:
“Data Governance vs Data Stewardship: Wat is het (verschil)?”,  IBC (2018)