What is the difference between Data Governance and Data Stewardship?

Data governance and data stewardship are tightly related, but they are not the same thing.

So what is the difference?

Data governance is the system of decision rights and accountabilities for information-related processes.

It is about setting up the organisational structures for governance, defining roles and responsibilities for stewardship, and about defining and implementing processes and KPIs to govern data.  The scope of governance encompasses processes, policies, and practices related to data protection, data utility, data value, and data ethics. Despite the term “data governance” the reality is that we don’t govern data. We govern the behaviour of our people when working with data. Policy setting, decision making, and guidance are all critical aspects of data governance that are necessary to manage data security, regulatory compliance, data privacy, data quality, data risk, and much more. 

Data governance may be set up under the auspices of a Chief Data Officer, or other centralised role, with a number of full-time, certified data governance specialists supporting data stewards across the business.

Our Certified Information Management Professional (CIMP) accreditation in data governance targets these professionals – staff that must set up and maintain the data governance organisation and that require and in depth understanding of data governance and related disciplines.

Data stewardship, by contrast, is the implementation of the data governance capabilities. These are the people, often in business, that lead a company’s information management program and are accountable for the data strategy, definition, requirements, and quality of the data under their stewardship.

They must make day to day decisions around data, ensure that standards and policies are met, and are generally responsible for data curatorship and delivering trusted, high quality. In most cases these staff would have a dotted line report into the CDO and / or Data Office. While these roles have existed for some time, data stewards are growing in importance and numbers.

Certified data stewards are trained to understand basic data management concepts and their new role as a data steward.

In short – data governance is the structures, roles and responsibilities and processes, whilst data stewardship is the hands on implementation of these.