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Data Governance and Data Stewardship: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Data Governance and Data Stewardship: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Data Governance and Data Stewardship, are they the same thing?

Many people working as a data steward or as a data governance professional make the mistake of using the phrases “data governance” and “data stewardship” interchangeably. These terms are not synonyms, but synergistic disciplines.

Data Governance 

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.

Data governance defines the workflows and procedures an organization needs to manage and govern data at an enterprise level. Data Governance professionals understand how decision-making works between vital data governance structures like the Data Governance Council, Data Stewardship Coordinating Group and the Domain/Subject-Area Data Stewardship Groups.

Effective data governance programs understand the need to build a Communications Plan that identifies how to present data governance and stewardship challenges and successes to the various stakeholders and to the rest of the organization. A successful communication plan is built on strong themes and is more effective than one with unrelated and scattered messages.

Data governance professionals construct a Data Governance Socialization Plan, defined as a plan and process by which data governance activities are integrated into an organization’s policies, internal culture, hierarchy, and processes. Socialization planning is essential in data governance – since data governance is a departure from the status quo.

Data Stewardship

Data Stewardship is 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 Stewardship is the detailed, boots-on-the-ground work that occurs in an enterprise data governance program. Data stewards are responsible for implementing the policies, standards, practices that the data governance program defines. Professional data stewards understand how to build world-class data definitions, define domain boundaries, resolve data integration issues, build enterprise data quality checks for business terms, work to build collaboration, and ensure that the data in our applications meets any applicable regulations and law.

Wait, Aren’t Data Governance and Data Stewardship the Same Thing?

All companies have data stewards, whether these people have the title of data steward or not. There is always someone who is responsible for the data and who the organization turns to when there is a data problem. However, these organizations may not have any type of format data governance program whatsoever.

A data governance professional may not have detailed domain knowledge, as their skill sets revolve around data governance frameworks, policies, standards, and procedures. On the other hand, professional data stewards are business people whose day day-to-day job is focused on understanding and using the data of an organization.


It is essential that all data management professionals, especially those involved in data governance understand the differences between data governance and data stewardship.  Both functions are crucial to every organization that desires a sustainable, effective, and enterprise level data governance program.

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Dr. David P. Marco, PhD, Fellow IIM, CBIP, CDP

Dr. David P. Marco, PhD, Fellow IIM, CBIP, CDP 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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