5 data governance roles and responsibilities

  • Data governance, a formalised practice that executes and enforces company-wide data policies, has gained significant traction in the last few years. 
  • In many cases, roles and responsibilities with data governance already exist but require recognition. 
  • The following article summarises each of the data governance roles: executive sponsor, data governance lead, data steward, data custodian, and Data stakeholder.

Data governance is a critical aspect of any organisation’s data management strategy. It involves the establishment of policies, procedures, and practices that ensure the availability, usability, integrity, and security of the data used in an enterprise. Effective data governance requires a well-defined set of roles and responsibilities that are communicated and enforced throughout the organisation. In this blog post, we will explore the key roles and responsibilities involved in data governance.

1. Executive sponsor

The executive sponsor is a senior employee who is charged with coordinating data governance activities and programs. The role of the executive sponsor is to serve as the conduit between the most senior stakeholders and the data governance lead or council and is authorised to make decisions and take actions.

The responsibilities of the executive sponsor can vary depending on the organisational culture and it depends if they take on a more passive role or a more active role. If they adopt a more active role, the responsibilities include working with the data governance team and taking responsibility for the implementation and ongoing data governance processes. It’s their job to make sure the program’s goals, data governance plan and institution strategies are in alignment. Another important role is for them to create the role of the data governance program lead (i.e. this could be the Chief Data Officer position) and the data governance council

2. Data governance lead

The data governance lead is responsible for all aspects of defining and operating the data governance policies and supporting the multiple data domains. They are ultimately responsible for implementing the data governance program vision, promoting the role of governance and enforcing policy, while following data governance best practices.

Traditionally, this role sat under IT and tended to be the responsibility of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or even the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). There are still quite a few organisations where this is still occurring, but it’s no longer recommended.

Depending on the size of your organisation, its culture, needs, and goals, as well as the operating model, the role could also fall of data governance leads onto the following people: data governance director/ manager, Chief Data Officer, information security and compliance lead

Whomever the role is given to, its main responsibility is to provide leadership, support, sponsorship, and understanding of data governance to other departments.

Also read: Who is Julia Hartz? Eventbrite CEO created a billion-dollar company in 4 years

3. Data stewards

Most data stewards come from their respective business departments. You will want a data steward who knows the data and the business needs and rules that govern it, is a good facilitator and has an analytical mind. Most importantly, your data stewards should be people with a working knowledge of the data and understand how it is used by the business on a day-to-day basis. Simply, your data stewards are invested in the data.

A data steward sits under a data owner and is generally appointed by the data owner to work with them or act as their representative in data stewardship domain group meetings. In the data governance hierarchy, they are part of at least one data stewardship domain group.

The data owner remains accountable, but they will delegate the day-to-day responsibility to a data steward. Data stewards often tend to be subject matter experts but are still reasonably senior because they must be trusted by their data owners.

4. Data custodians

ata custodians are typically part of IT departments. This makes it fundamentally different from other roles – like data owners and data stewards – since those are all about the business.

Data custodians are usually divided further into their areas of expertise, such as data modelling, data architecture and database administration and they are mainly responsible for maintaining, archiving, recovering, backing up data, preventing data loss/corruption etc.

Very simply, they’re responsible for maintaining data on your systems following the business requirements. Being a data custodian is all about maintaining data and systems, moving data between systems, aggregating, and transforming data to the business requirements.

Data custodians tend to collaborate with data stewards and data stakeholders and can all be part of the same data stewardship domain group.

Also read: What is open banking? A short guide

5. Data stakeholder

A stakeholder in any data governance program is an individual or group that could affect, or be affected by data governance decisions, processes, policies, standards, etc. The obvious examples of stakeholders are institutional researchers, data managers, data architects, and business intelligence staff.

Beyond those who are more closely related to data management roles, other groups need to be viewed as stakeholders as well. For example, a university provost who is looking at a dashboard report on the percentage of faculty teaching online courses will need to know how “faculty” is defined and whether adjuncts or lecturers are being included. An effective data governance program has the right information and definitions embedded within the dashboard so that the provost can understand and correctly interpret the data.

Data governance programs need to be built to support data consumers in a wide range of groups within the institution.

Effective data governance requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders within an organisation. By clearly defining and assigning roles and responsibilities, organisations can ensure that their data is well-managed, secure, and reliable. This, in turn, enables them to make informed decisions, improve operational efficiency, and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

In today’s data-driven world, data governance is not just a best practice; it is a business imperative. By understanding and implementing the key roles and responsibilities outlined in this blog post, organisations can take a proactive approach to managing their data assets and leveraging them for strategic advantage.


Fiona Huang

Fiona Huang, an intern reporter at BTW media dedicated in Fintech. She graduated from University of Southampton. Send tips to f.huang@btw.media.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *