Data stewardship refers to the process of maintaining data quality and ensuring that it can be accessed and shared across organizational levels as intended.
As a result, data stewardship can be thought of as two main roles:
- Auditing data quality and implementing processes that help maintain it
- Observing the flow of data across the organization and implementing policies and practices that help maintain data integrity as it is transferred, captured or manipulated
Organizations like enterprise-level corporations collect large volumes of data throughout the course of normal business. Without active data stewardship practices in place, an organization will likely face degraded data quality over time.
Without data stewardship, inaccuracies or sources of poor quality in data can lead to erroneous analysis. For instance, incomplete data on customer behaviors may cause a company to spend money on display ads that are actually not effective marketing tools. In this way, data quality will be an increasing priority for companies seeking to obtain insights through data using Business Intelligence solutions.
Challenges to data quality include incomplete field completion during database entry as well as duplicate entries or data points that are no longer accurate, such as a person listed as living at an address they no longer actually live at.
Someone tasked with data stewardship may audit each individual entry in a database to ensure accuracy, completeness, and consistency with other systems. They may also assign “data cleaning” tasks to others, or they may work to develop automated systems that can correct data issues and flag major sources of data inaccuracy.
The way data is captured, moved, modified and stored long-term can also affect overall quality, so a data steward may look at the architecture of a system as a whole. For instance, if data entry in one area, like CRM entries, is not updated ubiquitously across the system, then different “versions” of the same data might exist with an increasing degree of variances between them.
Data stewardship may be a role assigned to an individual or a team of individuals. It may also be a responsibility given to someone in a position of authority tasked with other data management duties.
A mixture of human solutions and automated data auditing algorithms or applications is the most common approach to data stewardship, although some companies may favor one over the other.
As the volume and velocity of the data we collect increases, data stewardship will become an increasingly important responsibility for organizations of all sizes and scopes.