The Building Blocks of Enterprise Information Management – Data Governance: Part 2

By David Marco

In order to have a successful Enterprise Information Management (EIM) program companies need to ensure that they are properly executing the fundamental building blocks of these initiatives. The basic building blocks of EIM are Meta Data Management, Data Governance and the EIM Organization.

Figure 1: EIM Building Blocks

In my April column for EIMInsight I focused on the meta data management building block. In this article and next month’s column I will address data governance for EIM. I will then conclude this series by discussing the EIM organization.

Data Governance

Data is one of the most important assets in a corporation. In order for data to have value it must be delivered quickly, properly formatted, concise, accurate, and most importantlyunderstood. Technology is only one part of the equation for EIM. The other part is business ownership and active participation, meaning data governance.

Understanding Data Governance

Before we can discuss data governance we need to make sure that we have a strong understanding of its meaning.

Data Governance:The process of having data stewards work with the data and meta data of an organization to ensure its quality, accuracy, formats, domain values, and that it is properly defined and understood across the enterprise.

Data Stewards:A person(s) responsible for working with the data and meta data. The data steward acts as the conduit between IT and the business. The data steward (which is often not just one person, but a collection of people) align the business needs with the IT systems supporting them (both decision support and operational). The data steward has the challenge of guaranteeing that one of the corporation’s most critical assets–its data and meta data–is being used to its fullest capacity.

Some people may say that their company does not have any data stewards, but this is not true. Every company has data stewards. There is always someone within the company to whom people turn with questions about what the data means. This person is the data steward, even if he or she doesn’t have the title.

Your company’s size, organization, and industry dictates how much effort you will need to place in data governance. Industries we have found to require greater data stewardship include pharmaceutical, certain government organizations (e.g. intelligence, military, energy), insurance, banking, and security brokers and investment advice.

Having had the opportunity to form several data stewardship organizations, we can attest that no two data stewardship groups are exactly the same. The Data Stewardship Framework provides guidelines for how these groups are formed. This framework is designed to provide corporations and government entities with the strategies and guidelines necessary to implement a highly successful data stewardship organization.

Types of Data Stewards

Throughout this section we use the term “data steward” to refer to the four types of data stewardship committee roles:

  • Executive sponsor
  • Chief steward
  • Business steward
  • Technical steward

As each role is reviewed in the following sections, keep in mind that (with few exceptions) they are not full-time jobs.

Executive Sponsor

Any initiative that cuts across a company’s lines of business must have executive management support. It is imperative in breaking down the barriers and the “ivory towers” that exist in all of our companies. Do not underestimate the obstacles that political challenges present; they are the greatest challenge that any data stewardship committee faces.

Good executive sponsors do not need to attend every data stewardship meeting, nor do they need to participate in tasks like defining data definitions. Instead, the executive sponsor needs to provide the appropriate level of support for their business or technical stewards.

It can be more difficult to find a business executive sponsor than it is to find a technical executive steward. Look for five key qualities in your executive sponsor:

  1. Someone willing to be an executive sponsor
  2. A person with executive ranking
  3. Someone with high credibility
  4. Someone knowledgeable about problems within the company
  5. A person willing to challenge the company status quo

A large financial institution was looking to implement an enterprise-level data stewardship committee. We had a technical executive sponsor; however, she had not identified a business executive sponsor. As part of our engagement with this client, we conducted a readiness assessment of their meta data management project which was part of their larger EIM effort. During this assessment we interviewed a member of the company’s executive management team. This person has worked at this company for over 20 years and was a very bright individual. He had a strong belief in his company’s need for data stewardship and he clearly understood how the lack of data stewardship has cost his company significant dollars. After this meeting we went back to the client counterpart and stated that we found a business executive sponsor.

Chief Steward

The chief steward is responsible for the day-to-day organization and management of the data stewardship committee. Like any other organization the data stewardship committee needs a leader or project manager. Typically the chief steward will be a senior level, as opposed to executive level, individual with an organization.

The chief steward must be a highly credible person within your organization. He or she should have a sound knowledge of both the technical and the business sides of the corporation. This knowledge is vital as some stewards are from the business and some are from the technical side. The chief steward needs to understand the politics within the organization and have the insight on how to navigate around those challenges. Most importantly, the chief steward must have strong leadership and communication skills to help guide the data stewardship committee. This is most evident when this person need attain consensus across disparate groups.

Business Steward

The business steward is responsible for defining the procedures, policies, data meanings, and requirements of the enterprise. Keep in mind that the business stewards can be organized from a departmental level (e.g. consumer lending, military branch, pharmacology) or by subject matter (e.g. logistics, shipping).

Business stewards need to have a strong knowledge of the business requirements and policies of the corporation. They must make sound decisions and work with key members of their business in order to gain consensus on their organizations’ business policies and requirements.

Technical Steward

The technical steward is a member of the IT department. These people focus on the technical meta data and data that needs to be captured by the data stewardship committee.

Next month I will walk through the first tasks that the data governance team must address and the typical data stewardship activities that they will be involved in.

About the Author

Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise information management, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on meta data management.  He is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”.  Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business “Top 40 Under 40” and is the chairman of the Enterprise Information Management Institute ( He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture, data governance and managed meta data environment technologies (  He may be reached directly via email at

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