What is data stewardship?

Data stewardship is the set of people, processes and tools that ensure consistent and reliable access to data. It begins with an understanding of a business need for data and continues through the identification, creation, curation, storage and ongoing maintenance of that data.

Stewardship ensures that the data has a clear owner or owners who are responsible for keeping it in good working order. This usually involves establishing a set of policies, procedures and best practices around how the data is stored and used so that it remains as accurate as possible over time.

Data stewards are all around us, both online and in person. When you go to a restaurant and get handed a menu that lists safety information next to each dish, that's data stewardship. When your doctor gives you an electronic copy of your medical records or explains the results of lab tests, that's data stewardship. When your bank provides you with spending analysis tools or shows you how much it would cost to increase your credit limit, that's data stewardship.

Data Steward Responsibilities

  • Data governance. These stewards are responsible for creating, collecting, implementing, and monitoring the processes and rules that a data organization has set up with regards to its data management.
  • Data management. In addition to governing how the data is collected and used, they're also responsible for working with the data itself. They're ensuring everything is well documented and easy for others in the organization to manage.
  • Data quality management. This is the process of deciding what data is significant to an organization and how it should be interacted with (i.e. metadata, metrics). Data stewards are responsible for ensuring that this data is relevant, accurate, and accessible.

Data stewardship is the management of data through a data lifecycle. It’s one part of an organization’s overall data governance approach — a comprehensive framework for establishing how an organization will handle its data.

Goals of Data Stewardship

Data stewardship is the process of creating, managing, and curating data so that it's easy to access, understand, and use. And a data steward is the person who makes this happen. Data stewards aren't always set job titles- sometimes it's the data analyst, data engineer, or data scientist who acts as the data stewards of an organization. These are the people who keep data:

  • Trusted – users can have confidence in its accuracy and completeness
  • Secure – privacy, confidentiality and intellectual property concerns are addressed
  • Visible – any user can find out where a given set of data lives, what it means and who owns it
  • Available – any user who needs to use a given set of data can access it easily

The practice of data stewardship involves many people across different departments and roles, especially as more types of employees are granted access to sensitive information. That’s why it’s so important to create a clear plan for how your business will manage its data.

You’ll want to outline specific responsibilities for each role in order to determine who should have ownership over the various aspects of your data management strategy.