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Basic Data Governance Definitions

It is essential for all data management professionals to know these data governance terms and their definitions

Data Governance: defines the people, processes, framework and organization necessary to ensure that an organization’s information assets (data and metadata) are formally, properly, proactively and efficiently managed throughout the enterprise to secure its trust, accountability, meaning and accuracy.

In general, governance means establishing and enforcing the processes for how a group agrees to work together. Specifically, data governance is the establishment of:

  • Chains of responsibility to empower people around an organization’s data
  • Measurement to gauge effectiveness of the activities
  • Policies to guide the organization to meet its goals
  • Control mechanisms to ensure compliance with regulations and law
  • Communication to keep all required parties informed

At the highest level, data governance is concerned with the management of data – its availability, currency, usefulness, accuracy and relationships with other enterprise data. 

Governance of data is not an IT function, although many technical products and tools are used to administer governance. Data governance is a business responsibility, shared with IT but “owned” by the business entity and instituted across the enterprise.  Like any other enterprise effort, successful data governance involves people, processes, tools, standards and activities that are managed at both strategic and operational levels.  And, like any other successful enterprise initiative, data governance starts with a vision, which is communicated and sustained by the enterprise.

Data Stewardship: The process of having data stewards work with the data and metadata of an organization to ensure its quality, accuracy, formats, domain values, and that it is properly defined and understood across the enterprise.

Data Stewardship’s role is to ensure organizational data and metadata meet quality, accuracy, format and value criteria; ensuring that data is properly defined and understood (standardized) across the enterprise.

Data Steward: A person(s) responsible for working with the data and metadata. They have many responsibilities including:

  • Participation in defining domain boundaries
  • Collecting feedback and enhancements for specific subject area/domain
  • Resolving data integration issues
  • Acting as the conduit between business and IT
  • Serving as quality control point for the data in the domain

The data steward (often not just one person, but a collection of people) aligns the IT systems (analytics and operational) with the business’ requirements. Data Stewards typically work in one or more domains across an enterprise. The data steward has the challenge of guaranteeing that one of the corporation’s most critical assets–its data–is used to its fullest capacity.

Other Important Definitions

There are other basic terms which most likely will play a role in an organization’s data governance program. These include the following.

Responsibility: the state of being held to answer for one’s conduct and obligations.
Accountability: the obligation or willingness to accept the consequences of one’s actions.
Authority: power to influence or command thoughts, opinions or behaviors of others.
Management: planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling the use of resources to achieve goals.

Conclusion

It is crucial that all data management professionals have a solid understanding of the basic definitions involved in data governance, so they can build and manage a successful, best-practices-based data governance program.

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David P. Marco, CDMP

David P. Marco, CDMP is an internationally recognized expert in the field of data warehousing, business intelligence, enterprise data management, data governance, and is the industry’s leading authority on metadata. Mr. Marco is founder and President of Enterprise Warehousing Solutions, Inc. (EWS), a Chicago-based enterprise data management consultancy dedicated to providing clients with best-in-class solutions. Author of several books and hundreds of articles and a Certified Data Management Professional, Mr. Marco is also a well-known speaker in his areas of expertise at conferences and symposia.

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