What Is a Data Steward?

In this article, Zuar covers what a data steward is, their roles and responsibilities, the benefits of data stewardship, and how data stewards differ from data analysts.

Data stewards explained


In this era, data has become the lifeblood of modern organizations. From customer insights to operational efficiency, the wealth of data generated every second holds immense potential to transform businesses.

However, this variety, volume and velocity of data also presents challenges like data quality assurance, governance and security.

According to the latest estimate, approximately 328.77 million terabytes of data are being generated each day, and by 2025, it will be around 181 zettabytes.

Here enter the data stewards with skill sets and expertise that are instrumental in maintaining the integrity and reliability of the information. Let's explore more about them below.

Data stewardship overview

What Is a Data Steward?

How data stewardship is defined, and how it is managed, varies across organizations:

  • An organization might have a dedicated data steward(s), or entire data governance group or department, or
  • Data stewardship might be assigned to those within the organization that are close to the data but work on more than just stewardship.
  • The role can vary greatly, whether it's more of a technical role or business role.
  • Data stewards can reside within IT, a data analytics group, or business groups.

Essentially the role is responsible for the custodianship and governance of an organization's data assets.

As the gatekeepers of data quality, data stewards play a pivotal role in ensuring that data remains accurate, reliable, accessible, and secure across all systems and processes.

To streamline data management practices, resolve data-related issues, and drive organizational success through data-driven decision-making, data stewards collaborate closely with various data professionals, departments and stakeholders.

As key players in the data management ecosystem, data stewards bridge the gap between technical expertise and business objectives, fostering a data excellence and accountability culture.

Data steward exaplained

Why Are Data Stewards so Important?

Data stewards play a critical and multifaceted role in driving successful data management initiatives within organizations. One of their primary responsibilities is establishing and maintaining robust data governance frameworks.

With the ever-increasing emphasis on data privacy and regulatory compliance, data stewards are the vanguard against data breaches and unauthorized access, safeguarding an organization's reputation and building trust with customers and partners.

In essence, while organizations continue to navigate the complexities of the data-driven world, data stewards stand as the bedrock of reliable data management. They unlock the true potential of data to drive innovation, competitiveness and long-term growth.

Importance of data stewards

What Are The Roles & Responsibilities of a Data Steward?

Data stewards cover the entire data lifecycle, ensuring protocols and standards are followed. Maintaining correct data lineage (an audit trail of every data point's source), customer interactions, modifications and migrations throughout the data pipeline is a key aspect of this role.

Data stewards can validate compliance throughout the data's lifetime and track the origin of problems with accurate data lineage.

In addition to this, let's explore the diverse roles and responsibilities that data stewards undertake in their custodianship of organizational data:

Data Cataloging

Data stewards create and maintain comprehensive data dictionaries and metadata repositories, providing valuable insights into data elements' meaning, structure, and relationships.

Through effective data cataloging, data stewards enable users to discover and access relevant information swiftly, enhancing data accessibility and utilization across the organization.

Data Processes

Data stewards ensure that data is collected, stored and processed efficiently and in line with defined data governance principles.

By overseeing data flows and integration points, data stewards guarantee that data moves seamlessly between systems and functions, reducing data redundancies and minimizing data inconsistencies.

Data Monitoring

Data stewards continuously monitor data quality and integrity to identify anomalies or discrepancies. They also ensure that data is accessed by internal and external regulations.

Through automated data profiling and monitoring tools, they proactively detect and rectify data errors, ensuring the reliability and accuracy of critical information.

Data Security

Data security is paramount, and data stewards are at the forefront of safeguarding sensitive data from unauthorized access and breaches.

To protect the organization's valuable data assets, they implement robust data security parameters such as access controls, encryption, and anonymization techniques.

Data Compliance

Data stewards are responsible for ensuring data compliance with industry-specific and government-mandated regulations. By adhering to data compliance standards, they build customer trust, demonstrate transparency, and foster a culture of data responsibility.

Data Workflow

From data ingestion to archival, data stewards ensure that data moves efficiently and securely through various stages of its journey.

This entails creating streams to produce visualizations and analyses and giving non-engineers simple access to self-service resources to do ad hoc analysis and gain fresh insights.

Data steward roles and responsibilities

Five Main Benefits of Data Stewardship

Data stewards also empower data analysts and other stakeholders by providing a solid foundation of high-quality data, enabling them to derive actionable insights.

Moreover, data stewards enhance operational efficiency and boost collaboration between departments by streamlining data workflows and data integration.

Also, data stewardship offers many benefits that are crucial for any organization seeking to harness the full potential of its data assets.

1. Improved Data Quality

Data stewards are dedicated to ensuring that data is accurate, consistent and reliable. Through data profiling, data monitoring, and data cleansing practices, data stewards identify and rectify data errors and inconsistencies, resulting in high-quality data. Improved data quality leads to more accurate insights and increased confidence in the data used throughout the organization.

2. Enhanced Data Governance

Data stewardship is closely tied to establishing and maintaining effective data governance frameworks. Data stewards foster a culture of accountability and responsibility for data assets by defining data ownership, policies, and management processes.

3. Better Data Security and Privacy

Through the use of security measures and access regulations, data stewards guarantee that access to confidential information is limited only to those who are appropriate stakeholders. They establish encryption and other security measures to ensure all data is safe from theft or unauthorized modification.

4. Increased Data Integration and Interoperability

Data stewards work to break down data silos within an organization, enabling seamless data integration from various sources. They facilitate data sharing and collaboration across departments, leading to more holistic insights and a unified view of data across the organization.

5. Support for Regulatory Compliance

Data steward's diligent efforts ensure that the organization adheres to industry-specific and government-mandated data regulations. Examples of regulatory compliance standards include GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI. Compliance with data standards and regulations helps mitigate legal and financial risks, fostering trust and credibility with customers.

Data steward benefits

Data Steward vs. Data Analyst

Data stewardship and data analysis are two essential roles in data management, each with distinct yet complementary functions.

While data stewards focus on maintaining data integrity, governance and security, data analysts explore data insights and derive valuable conclusions to support decision-making.

The overarching goal of data stewards is to ensure data quality and reliability, laying the foundation for accurate data analysis.

On the other hand, data analysts aim to extract meaningful patterns, trends, and actionable insights from the data stewards preserve.

Together, these roles synergize to optimize data management, foster data-driven decision-making, and unlock the true potential of an organization's data assets.

Difference between data analyst and data steward

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Reach out for a no-obligation data strategy assessment to explore how we can help you achieve your goals and turn data into your organization's most valuable asset.

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