Ebook: Democratizing data access and use

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Glossary

Data steward

A data steward helps implement a good data governance strategy across their organization to guarantee the quality, usability, and security of data.

As data volumes increase, an effective data management policy is essential for organizations. Ensuring data quality and good governance involves appointing and training data stewards. So, what exactly does a data steward do? What skills are required? What are the benefits for companies?

What is a data steward?

Today, every part of an organization produces data, from sales and marketing to finance and operations. Opening this data internally and externally so it can be shared across the organization and its ecosystem is vital to data democratization and becoming data-driven.

However, if data is not properly managed, companies risk using or sharing outdated (or even false) information, leading to poor decision-making, a breakdown of trust in data and increased risk that they will fail to meet their legal obligations.

That’s why organizations implement data governance programs to guarantee the quality, usability and security of their data. Data stewards (also known as data coordinators) are a key part of data governance. They manage all the information held by the organization. This reduces the risk of out-of-date, poor quality or insecure data, and aids compliance and data democratization.

What is the role of the data steward?

As data guardian, the data steward must ensure that all information held by the company is reliable, secure and compliant.

To do this, they have to:

  • Document the data: facilitate access and use of the data. To do this, each dataset must be detailed, specifying its purpose, location and retention period.
  • Guarantee data quality: the data steward must remove false, incomplete, obsolete and duplicate information. Therefore, regular control systems must be put into place.
  • Make the data available: the data must be accessible by all, regardless of their skill level. Complete data availability allows better, more informed decisions to be made, increasing performance, efficiency and innovation.
  • Define a framework: define who has access to specific data and to what extent. The idea is to preserve the confidentiality and security of sensitive data, both internally and externally, while still maximizing availability.
  • Monitor compliance with regulations: the data must be collected and processed in full compliance with legislation in force.

Through these various roles, the data steward transforms data to make it an asset for the organization. This data then delivers competitive advantage and simplifies the work of all employees.

What skills does a data steward need to have?

As the name suggests, the data steward is a data professional. As such, they have to be to able to confidently use relevant technology, such as databases, programming languages, Excel, and data modeling.

In addition to these essential skills, the data steward must also have an understanding and knowledge of the company’s business. This is very important, because understanding the environment in which the data is being created and used facilitates better, more relevant data management.

And of course, the data steward must also know about current regulations in order to enable compliance of processes when storing and handling data. They need to be able to monitor the regulatory landscape and introduce new processes in response to new legislation.

Finally, the data steward must also possess good communication skills. This is because data stewards work with a wide range of people. These include data specialists (such as data analysts and data scientists), but also all non-specialist company employees who use data (such as salespeople, marketing teams, management, and product designers). They need to be able to explain the importance of data governance and bring people on board with the program.

Above all, they must be rigorous and methodical, since they are responsible for managing all data within the organization.

Why should an organization hire a data steward?

Given the importance of data to organizational success, the role of the data steward is vital to ensure effective data governance. Promoting the reliability, security and enhancement of data makes it possible to:

  • Improve productivity: effective data management allows all employees to easily access information. As a result, employees do not need to waste time searching for data and checking that it meets their needs.
  • Make better decisions: up-to-date data allows decision-makers to make more informed choices. In this sense, data provides a true competitive advantage.
  • Lower costs: unsecured and unreliable data can cost businesses a lot of money (due to cyber-attacks or bad decisions). With data stewardship, you reduce this risk.
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