What is Data Stewardship?: Key Roles and Best Practices

March 27, 2024
15 min read

Nowadays, businesses are drowning in information. Every interaction, transaction, and click generates valuable information, but the sheer quantity and complexity can be overwhelming. Inconsistent, inaccurate, or inaccessible data can lead to poor decision-making, missed opportunities, and financial losses.

Data stewardship is a critical approach to tackling these challenges. This article explores data stewardship and its types, outlining best practices for effective data management. Let’s begin!

What is Data Stewardship?

Data Stewardship focuses on actively managing an organization's data assets throughout its lifecycle—from creation to storage and deletion. This empowers you to make informed decisions based on reliable and accurate information confidently.

A data steward is an individual or team responsible for overseeing the data stewardship process. They act as custodians of the data, ensuring its integrity and facilitating its practical use within the organization. 

The role of a data steward encompasses a range of responsibilities, such as data governance, lineage, advocacy, quality assurance, and privacy management. Data stewards also ensure data integrity and security within your organization so data is managed effectively.

Stewards are even responsible for implementing robust practices to utilize organization’s data while minimizing risks and guaranteeing regulatory compliance. Through proactive data stewardship efforts, they help organizations unlock the value of the data assets while safeguarding against potential threats.

Data stewardship can take different forms depending on the specific focus and scope. Here are four common types of roles:

  • Domain Data Stewards: Domain data stewards manage the reference data and attributes for a specific business domain, such as customer, product, or financial data. They work closely with subject matter experts to secure data accuracy, consistency, and completeness within their assigned domain.
  • Business Data Stewards: Business data stewards handle all relevant transactional and reference data for a business function. Examples of business functions could be sales, marketing, or human resources. They must understand the data needs of their business function and work to assure data quality aligns with those needs.
  • System Data Stewards: System data stewards oversee the data used in one or more IT systems, such as a specific data warehouse or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. They understand how data is stored, transformed, and accessed within their assigned systems and work to secure data integrity throughout the system's data lifecycle.
  • Process Data Stewards: Process data stewards manage data across a specific business process. This might involve data used in order fulfillment, customer service interactions, or financial transactions. They comprehend the data flow throughout the process and assure data quality and consistency at each stage.

What are the Best Practices of Data Stewardship?

Best practices for data stewardship include:

Establish Roles and Clear Policies

Clearly define each data steward's roles and responsibilities, aligning them with your data governance framework. This ensures everyone understands their ownership of specific data domains and fosters accountability for maintaining data quality.

Automate Quality Checks

Shift from reactive to proactive data quality management. Integrate automated data quality checks throughout the data lifecycle. This allows data stewards to identify and address inconsistencies early on, preventing errors from impacting downstream processes and reports. 

Breakdown Data Silos

Encourage data stewards to work across departments to standardize data formats, definitions, and naming conventions. This will reduce confusion and create a unified data foundation for better decision-making.

Empower Users with Self-Service Tools

Consider implementing self-service data discovery tools that empower users to find the data they need. This frees up data stewards' time for more strategic tasks like data governance and quality improvement initiatives.

Measure and Communicate Success

Track key data quality metrics to measure the effectiveness of your data stewardship program. Regularly communicate these metrics and success stories to stakeholders. This fosters transparency and highlights the value data stewardship brings to your organization.

What are the Benefits and Use Cases of Data Stewardship?

The benefits and use cases of data stewardship include:

Data Quality Management

Data stewards establish data quality standards, perform data profiling and analysis, identify data anomalies or inconsistencies, and implement processes to rectify issues. By maintaining high data quality, organizations can make more informed decisions and enhance operational efficiency.

Use case: A retail company relies on accurate product data to manage its inventory effectively. To identify differences, data stewards analyze product information, such as descriptions, prices, and stock levels. They implement data cleansing processes to standardize product names, correct pricing errors, and resolve inconsistencies, ensuring the inventory database remains reliable for sales and procurement decisions.

Data Governance and Compliance

Data stewards enforce data governance policies and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), or industry-specific regulations. They oversee data access controls, data usage policies, data privacy measures, and audits to mitigate data breaches or non-compliance risks

Use case: A healthcare organization must comply with HIPAA regulations to protect patient confidentiality. Data stewards can develop and enforce data governance policies to control access to electronic health records (EHRs), ensure data encryption during transmission, and audit user activities for compliance. They can also collaborate with legal and compliance teams to conduct regular assessments, address data privacy concerns, and maintain documentation for regulatory audits.

Master Data Management (MDM)

In MDM initiatives, data stewards are tasked with managing master data entities such as customer, product, or employee data to ensure consistency, accuracy, and reliability. They establish data stewardship processes, resolve data conflicts or duplicates, define data hierarchies, and facilitate collaboration among different business units to maintain a single source of truth.

Use case: A multinational corporation operates multiple subsidiaries with overlapping customer databases. Data stewards lead a master data management initiative to consolidate customer information across business units. They establish data stewardship roles, define data quality metrics, and implement data matching algorithms to identify and merge duplicate customer records. By creating a centralized customer master data repository, they enable sales and marketing teams to access accurate and complete customer profiles. This helps targeted campaigns and customer relationship management.

Data Security and Risk Management

Data stewards collaborate with IT security teams to implement data security measures and mitigate data-related risks. They classify sensitive data, define data access controls, monitor data usage patterns for potential security breaches, and respond to data security incidents promptly. Data stewards help safeguard sensitive information from unauthorized access or malicious activities by proactively addressing security threats and vulnerabilities.

Use case: A financial institution faces cybersecurity threats targeting sensitive customer financial data. In this scenario, data stewards can collaborate with cybersecurity experts to implement data security measures, such as encryption, tokenization, and access controls, to protect customer accounts and transactions. They can conduct regular security assessments, monitor network traffic for anomalies, and respond to security incidents by initiating incident response procedures and coordinating with law enforcement agencies.

Leveraging Airbyte for Effective Data Stewardship

Airbyte

Data stewards have a critical job to keep your company's information precise, secure, and accessible. This can be tricky when data comes from many sources and needs to be moved around frequently. 

Airbyte is a data integration platform that can simplify this process. It provides over 350+ pre-built connectors, allowing seamless data ingestion across various sources into a single repository of your choice (eg. data warehouse or data lake). This eliminates the need for manual coding and reduces the risk of inconsistencies that arise during data movement processes. 

Let's explore how Airbyte's features can specifically support data stewardship tasks:

  • Airbyte supports Change Data Capture (CDC) for specific sources, which permits incremental data changes to be captured since the last data load. By capturing updates and changes, Airbyte helps maintain data consistency in the destination system.
  • It can be used as a central hub for managing data pipelines. Data stewards may define data access permissions and control how data is delivered to different teams within the organization. This facilitates easier data sharing and collaboration across departments.
  • The platform encrypts data in transit using TLS (Transport Layer Security) and at rest using customer-managed keys. It guarantees sensitive data is protected during movement and storage within the Airbyte platform.
  • Its recent launch, PyAirbyte, allows writing scripts to interact with Airbyte connectors. This flexibility can be beneficial for data stewards who need to perform custom data transformations or manipulations during the data integration process.
  • Airbyte offers various deployment options—Airbyte Cloud, Airbyte Self-Managed, and Powered by Airbyte. This allows stewards to choose the solution that best fits their organization's needs and security requirements.

Conclusion

Data stewardship is like taking care of all the information a company has. It ensures the information is accurate, safe, and easy to find for everyone who needs it. This helps people in an organization make better choices because they have reliable information. They need to know their role, have clear communication, and work together to do this well. But sometimes, things can be confusing, or information might not be handled the same way across different departments. By implementing data stewardship seriously and using tools like Airbyte, you can turn your information into a powerful asset that gives you an edge.

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