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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.


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.


Dr. David P. Marco, LinkedIn Top BI Voice, IDMMA Data Mgt. Professional of the Year, Fellow IIM, CBIP, CDP

Dr. David P. Marco, PhD, Fellow IIM, CBIP, CDP is best known as the world’s foremost authority on data governance and metadata management, he is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of CDO, data management, data literacy, and advanced analytics. He has earned many industry honors, including Crain’s Chicago Business “Top 40 Under 40”, named by DePaul University as one of their “Top 14 Alumni Under 40”, and he is a Professional Fellow in the Institute of Information Management. In 2022, CDO Magazine named Dr. Marco one of the Top Data Consultants in North America and IDMMA named him their Data Management Professional of the Year. In 2023 he earned LinkedIn’s Top BI Voice. Dr. Marco won the prestigious BIG Innovation award in 2024. David Marco is the author of the widely acclaimed two top-selling books in metadata management history, “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository” (available in multiple languages). In addition, he is a co- author of numerous books and published hundreds of articles, some of which are translated into Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, and others. He has taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University.

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