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Data Steward as Transformation Agent?

John Rizutto (@johncrizzuto) of Gartner published a spot-on blog post yesterday titled "Data Not Included – The Era of the Data Steward" that I highly recommend to anyone trying to figure out how data governance will fit in our world's fast-changing information ecosystem.

Aside from painting a vision (an accurate one in my view) of how next-generation data integration, analytics and architectures will need to support the business' massively growing hunger for relevant data and insights, John also makes a call on how data stewards play into this new world.

John contends that the data stewards, our beloved (but not necessarily prioritized or respected) front line soldiers for data governance will become as strategically important as the much sexier data scientist role that most of us have likely overdosed in discussing.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how John's vision matches your own for the future direction of data governance evangelism and prioritization.

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I think the shift will be more subtle that John seems to imply. We already have plenty of "data stewards" in play - they're the people who are out there doing their day-to-day jobs, and have the need to either enter data, or use it as part of their normal work activity. (The label "knowledge worker" was in vogue for a while, but seems to have dropped out of usage recently). I don't foresee many situations where the "data steward" will be established as a dedicated job in its own right. 

Rather, I suggest that the difference will come in two ways.

Firstly, we'll finally get around to including an explicit set of data-related skills and behaviours into everyone's job descriptions, so that data expectations are mindfully and measurably addressed by all members of the organisation.

Secondly, we'll see a new generation of "self-service" data monitoring & improvement tools. These will enable end-users to manipulate data sets, business rules logic and data assurance task easily and effectively, rather than requiring the skills of a specialist data guru to do the profiling, monitoring and correction. (Australia's QFire Software are already making progress towards this type of pervasive approach to data quality assurance and have an exciting vision for their product. More info at http://www.qfiresoftware.com.au/  )

(I'd also offer the requirement for effective Data Governance, to ensure that everyone's on the same page, playing by similar rules, and that there's intellectual co-ordination across the enterprise... but that's another thread!)

Alan - I think you're right that data-specific responsibilities will become more the norm across more existing job descriptions, but I also personally expect the true rise of the business analyst as the first step of this transformation.  Unlike the data steward, which you correctly state is more of a part-time responsibility vs. a true job title in most orgs, the business analyst has been a dedicated profession for many years (and has its own dedicated professional association to promote the role).   From my research on the Business Analyst role while with Forrester Research, I was fascinated to learn that the average business analyst actually has over 10 years of experience in that role.  These are the subject matter experts that are most often asked to take on the non-administrative data stewardship responsibilities (definition, measurement, mitigation/problem solving, etc).  In my mind that's the actual job title that will become quite strategic over time.  Thoughts?

Alan David Duncan said:

I think the shift will be more subtle that John seems to imply. We already have plenty of "data stewards" in play - they're the people who are out there doing their day-to-day jobs, and have the need to either enter data, or use it as part of their normal work activity. (The label "knowledge worker" was in vogue for a while, but seems to have dropped out of usage recently). I don't foresee many situations where the "data steward" will be established as a dedicated job in its own right. 

Rather, I suggest that the difference will come in two ways.

Firstly, we'll finally get around to including an explicit set of data-related skills and behaviours into everyone's job descriptions, so that data expectations are mindfully and measurably addressed by all members of the organisation.

Secondly, we'll see a new generation of "self-service" data monitoring & improvement tools. These will enable end-users to manipulate data sets, business rules logic and data assurance task easily and effectively, rather than requiring the skills of a specialist data guru to do the profiling, monitoring and correction. (Australia's QFire Software are already making progress towards this type of pervasive approach to data quality assurance and have an exciting vision for their product. More info at http://www.qfiresoftware.com.au/  )

(I'd also offer the requirement for effective Data Governance, to ensure that everyone's on the same page, playing by similar rules, and that there's intellectual co-ordination across the enterprise... but that's another thread!)

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