These days, businesses handle tons and tons of data daily. But they often struggle to utilize their data accurately, consistently, and safely to make better business decisions. This is where the need for data governance and data stewardship comes in to help businesses improve the quality of data in their repository. 

While data governance concentrates on high-level policies and procedures, data stewardship manages tactical coordination and implementation. A data steward liaisons between users and IT departments to help manage organizational data.

This guide discusses what is data stewardship and why it is important while also diving into data stewardship benefits, the roles, and responsibilities of a data steward, how to become a data steward as well as the comparison of data steward vs. data analyst roles. 

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What Is Data Stewardship?

Data stewardship is a collection of functions that ensure all data assets of an organization are accessible, usable, safe, and trusted. It involves managing and overseeing all aspects of the data lifecycle from creation, collection, preparation, and usage to data storage and deletion. The role of data stewardship is to provide customers with high-quality data that can be easily accessed consistently.

Data stewardship follows the data governance principles of an organization to ensure data quality and consistency. It includes:

  • Knowing all data that the organization possesses
  • Ensuring data accessibility, usability, safety, and reliability
  • Understanding the location of data
  • Maintaining the transparency and accuracy of data
  • Implementing rules and regulations for using data
  • Enabling the organization to utilize business data to gain a competitive advantage
  • Advocating the use of reliable data

Why Is Data Stewardship Important?

A data steward manages and coordinates every aspect that affects the quality and validity of data. This task becomes particularly important when dealing with mission-critical or sensitive customer data that needs to be protected from falling into the wrong hands. As the importance of data as an asset continues to increase exponentially, organizations are under mounting pressure to ensure data safety, security, consistency, and quality. Hence, the demand for data stewards is soaring across industries. 

Inadequately maintained data can steer a company in the wrong direction, causing disastrous business results. Data stewards bring authority and accountability to the table and take ownership of organizational data. Employees cannot log in and retrieve data without permission from the data steward. Data stewardship is a position of trust wherein both technical teams and business professionals in a company must have the utmost trust in their data steward. They are the link between data professionals and the users of the data. 

On the one hand, data stewards guard data against regulatory and reputational threats, and on the other hand, they are the main drivers who use data for strategic advantage. They constantly strive to educate users to make the most out of data and improve business decisions. 

Employees perform better in jobs with strong data stewards around. Data stewards do all this while adhering to data governance rules and policies. They are of vital importance as they work across all levels of a company to maintain optimum efficiency and efficacy of data.  

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Data Stewardship Benefits: Why Businesses Need to Invest in Data Stewardship? 

Data stewardship ensures enterprise users and stakeholders to leverage the best quality data. Here are some of the major benefits that drive businesses to invest in data stewardship.

  • Improves data quality by streamlining processes, aligning users to build trust and confidence in data
  • Connects users from across the organization to work together in defining data, building context around data, raising questions, and clarifying roles and data owners. 
  • Provides efficient and effective data analytics with enhanced access and quality
  • Better risk-control related to legal, privacy, errors issues in data management
  • Allows mapping of data sources, storage locations
  • Facilitates data-driven decisions based upon consistent, uniform data from throughout the company
  • Lowers cost in other data management areas

Data Stewardship Programs

Based on size, industry, or organization, the criticality of data needs, and the maturity of the data program, a company can have a single data steward or multiple stewards. 

The process for creating a new data stewardship program or evaluating an existing one includes:

  • defining goals and success metrics
  • analyzing existing state and identifying gaps
  • creating a roadmap to develop, implement and maintain the program
  • ensuring buy-in from stakeholders 
  • developing a detailed plan
  • implementing the program
  • monitor and maintain the data stewardship program

Data stewardship programs can include oversight and management of:

  • Business data efforts and operations, mainly data lifecycle management that determine and enforce how long data is retained
  • Data quality programs such as establishment and use of quality metrics, quality detection, correction methods
  • Data security, data privacy, risk management based on data governance policies, the security unit, legal department, and risk function – involving control implementation and monitoring
  • Business procedures and policies that enable data access, aimed at ensuring authorized users access required data at the required time and format, without compromising on data confidentiality and integrity
  • Data stewardship programs work in accordance with data governance policies and with the company’s data owners to identify the data needed by their respective functions and understand how the function will utilize data to achieve business goals.  

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Data Steward Roles and Responsibilities

The data steward is the “go-to” guy for everyone working with data within the company. Typical data steward roles and responsibilities can be grouped as:

  • Operational Oversight – a data steward oversees the lifecycle of a data set. They are responsible for defining and implementing rules and regulations for the day-to-day operational and administrative management of data and systems.
  • Data Quality – data steward responsibilities include establishing data quality metrics and requirements, like setting acceptable values, ranges, and parameters for every data element.
  • Privacy, Security, and Risk Management – data protection is a key aspect of data steward responsibilities. A steward must establish regulations and conventions that govern data proliferation to ensure that data privacy controls are exercised in all processes.
  • Policies and Procedures – data stewards, also establish policies and procedures for data access, including authorization criteria based on any individual and/or the role. 

Data Steward vs. Data Analyst: How the Two Roles Compare

Within an organization, data stewards work closely with data analysts and data scientists who analyze data to reveal past trends, identify current patterns, and predict future results. Although all of these positions handle data, there are remarkable differences between the job roles of data steward vs. data analyst. 

Data Analysts and Data Scientists retrieve and organize data so they can analyze and manipulate it to form conclusions and insights. Based on the data retrieved, they produce reports on past and present performances of the organization, thereby helping business leaders to make data-driven decisions. They also use data to determine predictive data analytics

The data steward largely works with existing data structures and ensures their efficient operation for users, with a limited role in forming new policies and procedures. They facilitate data analytics strategy.

The two roles are pretty close in terms of the average annual salary. According to Salary.com, data stewards and data analysts in the US can draw a pay package of around $71,580 and $78,644, respectively.

The most common skills required for the two job roles are as follows:

Data Steward: data analysis, data modeling, data management, and DBMS, Microsoft Excel, technical writing, and presentation skills

Data Analyst: machine learning, data analysis, statistical analysis, Python, R, SQL, math skills, data visualization

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Final Words

Data Stewardship is an integral part of a modern organization. Hence, a Data Steward career is a lucrative choice. Whether you wish to pursue a career in data stewardship or data analytics, you have to devote time to learn data analytics, upgrade your skills, and acquire the competencies that will help you ace your job interviews and land a rewarding position with a top recruiter in the field. Simplilearn’s Data Analytics Certification Program is an excellent place to begin your journey towards an exciting career in big data and analytics.

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